Does India have the best bowling attack in the world right now?
India have traditionally been a superb batting team. Historically known to churn out batting talents one after the another. Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Virat Kohli, Virender Sehwag, are all legends in their own right.
But as good as their batsmen were, India hardly ever had the bowling might to back them up, at-least in non-subcontinental conditions. Yes, India traditionally boasted of a strong spin attack, especially in sub-continental conditions and even in the pace bowling department they did produce wonders like Zaheer Khan, Javagal Srinath, Irfan Pathan and others.
However, India never had an entire attack that could take 20 wickets every game and force results and victories on their own, especially in conditions alien to them. However, a sea of change has swept over Indian cricket in recent times. Not just in Indian or sub-continent conditions but the current Indian attack is one that is more than capable of challenging any attack in any conditions around the world across formats, especially so in Test cricket.
They are undoubtedly the best bowling attack going around in the world at the moment and their performances in the past 2 years have been a statistical testimony of this fact.
India started their stint at the top of the rankings late in 2016 and have persisted at the top of the order ever since. Let us consider what the Indian bowlers have done over the past two years. In 2017 when India played most of their matches in India, Ravichandran Ashwin took 56 wickets at 27.58, followed by Ravindra Jadeja with 54 wickets at 23.05.
Umesh Yadav was 3rd on the list with 31 wickets at 29.25. Ashwin was bettered only by Nathan Lyon in number of wickets in 2017 and Jadeja finished 4th after Kagiso Rabada. 2018 saw India playing very few test matches at home and most of their test cricket abroad in the tours of South Africa, England and Australia.
Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami have already picked up 45 wickets each at an average of 21.24 and 26.60 respectively. Ishant Sharma is close behind with 39 wickets at 21.89. Bumrah and Shami are joint 4th on the highest wicket-takers list for 2018 and with one more innings remaining in the Boxing Day Test match they could in all probability go on to lead the chart. And besides the three ace pacers, India has an ever reliable Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and even Umesh Yadav waiting in the wings.
Over the past 2 years, India have played in different conditions against different opponents each very adept at their own home conditions at the least. India went to Sri Lanka when Rangana Herath was far away from his retirement announcement. And while the Indian batsmen negotiated the threat with ease, Ashwin and Jadeja put on an exhibition of spin bowling.
The skills and execution on display were good enough to win the matches on their own. (although a depleted Sri Lankan team did help).The duo continued to ace through the year in conditions suitable to them, running through opponent line ups and winning test matches for their country ably assisted and backed up by their pacers.
Once the series against South Africa arrived, the pacers stepped it up. South Africa perhaps fielded the greatest pace bowling quartet in recent memory with Steyn, Philander, Morkel and Rabada. However, India were upto the battle and presented a strong case for themselves, picking up 20 wickets in all 6 innings across the 3 Test matches.
Traveling to England they performed and at times outperformed their English counterparts displaying impeccable skill and control. Towards the fag end of the year, they have arrived in Australia and have so far picked up all 50 wickets in the 5 innings so far with one to go. They have by far outperformed the Australian pace attack that Australia so vehemently claimed to be the best in the world.
If 2017 was all about being challenged at home by some very good visiting teams and coming up trumps over them, 2018 has been the year of playing some of the best teams at their home conditions each making their claim to the title of having the best attack in the world and proving them wrong.
India currently features five of its players in the top 30 bowlers in the world as per ICC Test bowlers ranking (with Bhuvneshwar Kumar at 31) the most among all teams at the moment. There are certainly some great bowlers and bowling units going around across the world at the moment.
The South African and Australian pace attacks in conditions that aid seam and bounce, the English as ever in swinging overcast conditions with the duke in hand. But without an iota of doubt, there is no better whole rounded bowling attack in the world at the moment that is as potent and effective as India’s.