Are Indian pacers ready to take the lead?

Giri Subramanian Roar Guru

By Giri Subramanian, Giri Subramanian is a Roar Guru

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    India have had a stellar last couple of years: the team has won eight consecutive Test series under skipper Virat Kohli, which has catapulted them to world number one in the ICC rankings.

    But even though the Indian team has done wonderfully well over the last couple of years, everyone knows that their real test will begin later this year when they embark upon another round of overseas tours.

    The young Indian team without experience went through a similar cycle from 2013 to 2015 without much success. Even though the team did not win many games, the core of the present team was formed during those tours. The team since their 2015 tour of Sri Lanka has gone from strength to strength and has now finished their run with a crushing 3-0 away win against Sri Lanka.

    The biggest issue the Indian team had during their previous overseas stint was their pace bowling. The bowlers, though talented, weren’t consistent enough and most of the time failed to maintain the pressure on the opposition. After Zaheer Khan the Indian bowling attack also lacks the leadership they so badly need for the tours abroad.

    Over the last two years since the start of the Sri Lankan tour in 2015 the Indian pace bowlers have been a great support cast for the spinners. Virat Kohli has used them well and has bowled them in short bursts throughout, getting great output from the pacers.

    The biggest challenge for the pacers would be when they go outside subcontinent, when they would be expected to take the lead. If we look over the last couple of years Umesh Yadav has bowled the most number of overs among the pacers – he’s bowled 558 overs in 42 innings during that time, which gives him an average of 13 overs an innings.

    Umesh Yadav also was India’s best pacer during that time and also got 51 wickets. The rest of the pacers bowled under 400 overs during, averaging between 12 and 14 overs an innings. During the same period of time Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja averaged 25 overs per innings.

    Another important statistic to note is that, except for Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma, there have been no five-wicket hauls by fast bowlers over the last couple of years.

    When India tour South Africa later this year the roles are going to be reversed and the fast men on average might have to bowl up to 20 overs an innings. The biggest challenge for the pacemen would be to make that jump and to also have the fitness to complete a full tour – India’s best pacer over the last couple years has been Mohd Shami and his fitness has been a constant worry for the team management.

    Even though there has been a marked improvement in the consistency and accuracy of the fast bowlers, they would be tested to the fullest when they play outside subcontinent. They would not only be expected to take wickets but would also be expected to keep the pressure on the opposition.

    India would be hoping that Mohd Shami takes the task of leading the attack and remains fit throughout. It will be very interesting to see how the fast bowlers respond to being the leader of the attack rather than just being the support cast on the subcontinent. The answer to that question will determine India’s success over the next year and a half.

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    The Crowd Says (18)

    • August 17th 2017 @ 2:24am
      Vikram said | August 17th 2017 @ 2:24am | ! Report

      NO

    • Columnist

      August 17th 2017 @ 2:40am
      Ronan O'Connell said | August 17th 2017 @ 2:40am | ! Report

      If Yadav can bowl as well as he did against Australia and Shami gets back to his best then suddenly India will have arguably their best-ever new ball attack.

      Throw in Bhuvvy as first change and that would be a very good pace unit.

      • Roar Guru

        August 17th 2017 @ 8:59am
        Giri Subramanian said | August 17th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        Yadav and Shami are the two trump cards for India for the upcoming overseas tours. Shami especially is crucial. I am not 100% confident about his fitness though. Ishant and Bhuvi are the work horses for India and are capable of bowling long spells. It will be interesting to to see how Kohli handles his fast men. During 2014/15 tour to Australia Kohli seemed clueless when the pacers were leaking more than 4 runs an over and were not taking any wickets either. So this time he will be hoping for better performance from his main bowlers. He will not have Ashwin and Jadeja to fall back for wickets in SA and Australia, so would need to handle the work load effectively.

    • Roar Rookie

      August 17th 2017 @ 3:29am
      savage said | August 17th 2017 @ 3:29am | ! Report

      Kohli has been excellent in Managing workload of our Pacers so far.Problem for our pacers over the years have been old ball and second New ball.You won’t find many successful openers against us in overseas because we’ve been pretty decent with new ball.Kohli captaincy will be tested with how he manages his seamers workload outside SC.It will be interesting to see how our pacers will perform with Old Ball(whether they can get reverse swing if suitable or maintain their pace) and Second new ball(whether they can be just as effective as with first new ball).

      • Roar Guru

        August 17th 2017 @ 8:55am
        Giri Subramanian said | August 17th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        Kohli indeed has managed the pacers well over the last couple of years but as you can see the bowlers themselves have not been required to bowl lengthy spells during that time. When India tour South Africa, the pacers will be required to bowl 12-15 overs a day which will seriously challenge their fitness and consistency. It is all good bowling quick 3-5 spells while the spinners are bowling majority of the overs. Yes it will be interesting to see how Kohli handles the workload of the fast men. It will be imperative that he juggles his bowlers effectively as the pacers have the tendency to breakdown regularly on overseas tours.

    • August 17th 2017 @ 11:39am
      AGordon said | August 17th 2017 @ 11:39am | ! Report

      I suspect India’s in for a rude shock once they get away from sub-continent pitches, with all aspects of their game.

      Pat Cummins highlighted some technical issues with the top order against the short ball and you can bet the South Africans would have picked up on that. In addition, Kohli’s own form has been fragile over recent months. Yes he scored some good runs in Sri Lanka but he also got out cheaply several times. In other words, he might not have the luxury of being able to defend 500.

      It’s relatively easy to “manage” fast bowlers when you have 2 quality spinners bowling on pitches that suit them. What is he going to do when his spinners are getting caned on flat pitches offering nothing? None of his fast bowlers average under 30 in Tests and none, with the exception of Sharma, have shown the heart to bowl for both extended periods and a lot of overs in a day.

      If you combine both these situations with a fielding side which can be best described as “okay” – Indian outfielding has never been a strength – and I suggest Mr Kohli will not be a happy camper in the coming months, especially if his side gets a hiding and the Indian press get stuck in.

      Maybe I’m wrong but I just can’t see it.

      • Roar Guru

        August 17th 2017 @ 12:08pm
        Giri Subramanian said | August 17th 2017 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

        Agree with the lengthy spells part as except for Ishant and possibly Bhuvneshwar Kumar, none of the Indian pacers have bowled for long periods of time in tests. Don’t agree about the spinners part though. Even though Ashwin and Jadeja might not pick many wickets, they would not be easily hit around even in Australia and SA. In 2014/15 series when the Indian pacers were getting caned in every game, Ashwin was the one keeping the lid on the scoring and he bowled beautifully without much reward. Jadeja too will do the same, it will be hard to hit him around.

        The batting though will not perform as bad as people expect. Vijay, Rahane and Kohli scored lots of runs on their previous tours to SA (Pujara scored runs in SA), England (Kohli flopped but Vijay and Rahane scored runs) and Australia. They are coming back with Lots of experience now and will be surely performing better that the last time they were in those countries.

        • August 17th 2017 @ 1:15pm
          AGordon said | August 17th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

          Giri, I think we might be saying the same thing, but in different ways. I agree the spinners will keep things tight but as you pointed out, they don’t get a lot of reward. This throws a lot of additional pressure onto your quicks who we both agree, aren’t used to bowling for long spells except for Sharma.

          I agree the batting is more experienced now, but my point is Cummings showed some weaknesses to the short ball and the cricket grapevine would have picked up on that very quickly.

          A large part of India’s success has been to either bat sides out of the game in the first innings (allowing their spinners especially to bowl a lot of overs and wait on batsmen to make mistakes), or build a big second innings lead and let their bowlers loose to do the same thing again.

          If their batting does not give them the runs they need, their spinners have to attack more, which is not a natural thing for them to do and/or their quicks have to bowl more overs to try and get wickets. Either way, they’re out of their comfort zone which Indian sides traditionally have not managed well.

          • Roar Guru

            August 17th 2017 @ 1:45pm
            Giri Subramanian said | August 17th 2017 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

            I agree, the quicks need to step up and be counted. I think the way Kohli uses spinners outside subcontinent does not allow them to attack. If we take the Australian tour of 2014/15, Ashwin had no choice but to go on a defensive as the pace bowlers were getting hit all over the place. Ashwin or Jadeja can attack if the pacers bowl with control and pick some wickets with the new ball. Unless Shami steps up to the plate and assumes the role of the leader, India is going to struggle. India have waited 10 years for Ishant to do that but he has failed miserably. Shami’s fitness is a concern and if he breaks down, India would struggle.

    • August 17th 2017 @ 5:23pm
      DavSA said | August 17th 2017 @ 5:23pm | ! Report

      Thanks for an interesting article Giri . I am waiting with baited breath for The Indians to come to SA . Reason ….their current nr 1 ranking will never impress me until they are tested on the road . SA is going to be a huge challenge for them not least of all playing at altitude . Yes they have an impressive pace attack but that will not bother the SA batsmen who grow up on a diet of quick bowling . The biggest poser is going to be how the batters handle conditions. a solid technique is very important on wickets like Centurion and the Wanderers . One thing though that they wont be short of is strong crowd support in the stadiums . Even my wife who is of Indian descent has indicated her support for them .

      • Roar Guru

        August 18th 2017 @ 8:52am
        Giri Subramanian said | August 18th 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        I am also waiting to see how this team under Kohli is going to perform in SA. The last time the team toured in 2013 under Dhoni, they got very close to winning one test. SA don’t have issues with quick bowling but have some issues with swing bowling. Zaheer troubled them in 2010/11 series when India returned with 1-1 draw. Sreesanth troubled them constantly and had 5 wicket hauls against them in 2006 and 2011. Sreesanth’s spell in 2006 to bowl SA out for 84 was one of the best swing bowling exhibition I have seen from an Indian bowler. So if India can stick to right lines and bowl with control they can trouble SA. Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be a crucial member of the Indian team as he can do what Sreeshant did so effectively in SA.

    • August 18th 2017 @ 5:43pm
      Rats said | August 18th 2017 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

      Good article..

      What has been impressive with this lot is how they manged to take 20 wickets in the first test against SL on a flat track. Indian bowlers usually struggle on flat tracks.

      In SA, the current bunch of bowlers will get good help. I am not concerned about that..

      I know this article is not about catching and fielding, but what I am really worried about India’s chances in SA is the slip catching. They need to do a lot of improvement. You can’t win test matches in SA, Aus such places if you keep dropping then in slips.

      • Roar Guru

        August 21st 2017 @ 9:28am
        Giri Subramanian said | August 21st 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

        India’s best slip catcher is Rahane and he isn’t a good ODI player. As long as Kohli isn’t standing in slips we are fine.

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