India: from Batting Giants to Bowling Powerhouse
In 1978-79, once Sunil Gavaskar opened the bowling for India alongside Kapil Dev. Sunil Gavaskar is one of the best opening batsmen India has produced but by any stretch of imagination he is not known for his bowling. Sunil Gavaskar opening the bowling alongside Kapil Dev tells you an important aspect about Indian cricket prevailing at that time- the dearth of good fast bowlers.
Till about a decade back India was not known for its fast bowlers, in fact, it was considered to be India's weakness. Due to dry conditions at home, India was considered to be the pace bowlers graveyard. Due to the same reason, India has produced some of the finest spinners that world has ever seen like Kumble, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar, Harbhajan, and Ashwin. India's famous away wins (1971 in England and 1970-71 in West Indies) came when pitches in those countries were dry and Indian spinners played an important part in those victories.
Kapil Dev was the first genuine medium pace bowler India produced. Even, during the 1983 world cup triumph, alongside Kapil Dev, India relied on bits and pieces cricketers like Madan Lal, Roger Binny, and Mohinder Amarnath.
Javagal Srinath was the next workhorse for India in the fast bowling department. Due to non-availability of other good fast bowling options, his workload was so much that once during South African series in 1996-97, experts jokingly said that he might be reduced to half in height by the end of the series.
During early 2000's, Javagal Srinath passed the baton into able hands of Zaheer Khan, who was one of the most skilful bowlers during his time. He could bowl lethal in-swingers to right-handers and could get the bowl to reverse swing at over 140 km/hour.
Alongside Zaheer Khan, India had other decent fast bowlers like Ashish Nehra and Ajit Agarkar. Still, India was not a great fast bowling unit as others were not world class like Zaheer.
During the last five years, there has been an avalanche of world-class fast bowlers in India. These bowlers include Ishant Sharma, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and latest entrant Jasprit Bumrah.
It is difficult to pinpoint to a particular reason as to what caused this transformation. Some people say the advent of IPL is the reason while others say that more youngsters are taking up to the fast bowling nowadays. Whatever it is, it augurs really well for the Indian team.
Indian team which used to struggle to take 20 wickets in test matches in overseas conditions has recently taken 20 wickets on the trot in four matches in South Africa and England. On the other hand, Indian batsmen are struggling to match the performance put in by the bowlers.
It is refreshing to see Indian fast bowlers doing really well and for the first time in the history of Indian test cricket fast bowling is the strength of Indian team.