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India and high-quality fast bowling – A dream realized after years of yearning and frustration

To have more than two bruisingly fast bowlers at one time, functioning at full throttle, at the top of their game in terms of searing pace, accuracy, hostility, venom, and whatnot, was completely unthinkable. And, to be honest, it still is!

Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami
Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, and Mohammed Shami. (Photo Source: Twitter)

After the end of the Indore Test between India and Bangladesh, the host broadcasters aired in what is now an interview for the ages. No, it wasn’t of India’s superstars; it wasn’t of the Agarwals’ or the Pujaras’ or the Rahanes’; it certainly wasn’t of Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli. It was the interview of the troika of Indian fast bowlers.

Yep! You heard that right! And, I’m not kidding. It was of the Indian fast bowlers. Yep! Indian. FAST. bowlers. If you are a young cricket fan who has grown up on seeing the likes of Shami or Umesh or Jasprit Bumrah bamboozling the stumps or beating the opposition batsmen with pace, craft or hostility, you might wonder, what is all this fuss everyone- including me- is coming of India’s fast bowling unit? 

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The fuss, euphoria, excitement, feeling of pride in every Indian cricket fan that had grown up, longing for an Indian fast bowling unit to hunt like they have been doing in the past 3-4 years, to instill fear in the mind of the opposition with their craft and hostility, can be best summarised with the question Ishant Sharma asked Mohammed Shami in that iconic interview.

“What are you doing that whenever you hit the pads, it’s out… When we hit the pad, it’s missing the stumps. Why does this happen?”

Why, why, why? WHY? 

This is what every Indian fan used to ask themselves in self-pity, sometimes disgust and most of the time in utter disappointment, every time they saw their batsman get bounced out and bamboozled by the pace and hostility of the opposition pace attack. Why can’t we retaliate with the same venom? Why is it that the pitch that appears so venomous like it would take the house down on fire when our batsmen bat and not so when our bowlers come out to bowl. 

But, we don’t have pace yarr! Pace. High Quality pace……..Now! we have it, and how!

Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, we would boast of a factory of high-quality batsmen churning out runs for fun, our spinners taking truckloads of wickets in favorable conditions while working diligently in obscure environments but it was always the fast bowling department which pegged us back.

When it came to rewinding the highlight real of our own seamers, swing and reverse swing almost always triumphed over pace. High-Quality pace. Close your eyes and think of every possible Indian seam bowling unit triumph- whether it is Kapil Dev working his magic over Australia in 1980-81 or 1985-86 or Javagal Srinath bamboozling the South Africans with reverse-swing at Ahmedabad in 1996; Ashish Nehra running through the Englishmen in what turned out to be a banana peel; Zaheer Khan working over Graeme Smith on a plethora of occasions; Sreesanth bouncing Jacques Kallis in 2010; or a young Ishant Sharma takedown of Ponting in “Ek over aur dalaga” spell back in 2008.

Each of these events is scattered around the period of the past 40 years. And, between them came in numerous moments of frustration. Remember when Zaheer Khan hobbled off the ground in the opening session of the Lord’s Test during India’s disastrous 2011 tour of England, forcing MS Dhoni to ditch his pads and mark his run-up or occasions when Sourav Ganguly was India’s first-change bowler on the overseas sojourns of the 1990s or the situation when RP Singh had to be recalled from what was his off-season because India did not have any backup for the injured Zaheer or those numerous instances of the past? 

And, the fact that we are looking forward to watching them create havoc in India’s first-ever Pink Test, more than our batsmen, is already one of the biggest cultural changes in Indian cricket. To have more than two bruisingly fast bowlers at one time, functioning at full throttle, at the top of their game in terms of searing pace, accuracy, hostility, venom, and whatnot, was completely unthinkable. And, to be honest, it still is!

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