When a stalwart all-rounder and the former captain who has carved niche for himself among the pantheon of world cricket, Kapil Dev, reckons that the present crop of pace bowlers shining in all formats reckons that it is the best assembly of new ball bowlers in the last fifty years for India, the compliment is an unalloyed tribute.
Kapil has reflected that popular opinion now among the cricket fraternity that the pacemen headed by Jaspreet Bumrah have matched their counterparts in every aspect of speed bowling, methodical and menacing, to the extent of skittling out the best batting line ups.
The current generation of pace bowlers available for selection fulfills a long felt need to having battery of the pacemen to support the world class spinners that India already has in sizable number. It can be said without fear of contradiction that India is shining in the tour of Australia mainly because of the pace attack purveyed gallantly by Jaspreet Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammd Shami, Bhvaneshwar Kumar. Even the left arm seamer Khalid and the energetic Umesh Yadav merit mention in this group. What is heartening is that the majority of them have become specialists in ODI and T-20 versions also.
It is not that pacemen are a rarity in Indian cricket. In fact, it was India’s fast bowlers who made our debut in Test cricket memorable. The names of Mohammad Nissar and Amar Singh are recalled even today almost after eight decades with a touch of reverence and elation. In the pre-independence days, there was a lot of attention on identifying pacemen.
Every Test squad-the other formats were non-existent then- had a couple of pacemen who could generate a good deal of pace and swing but were unsuccessful on the flat and dead pitches. There were men DG Phadkar, Ramakant Desai, Vasant Ranjane, Kapil Dev, R P Singh, Zaheer Khan who excelled even in such weather conditions.
The duo of Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad held the imagination of the public for a few seasons but they were overpowered by the presence and dominance of the spinners on designer pitches. But the numbers available were too few who can be relied upon as in the list of selectors today.
But it must be admitted that India was not lucky to have a succession of pacemen like Australia (Lindwall, Miller, Liliee and Thomson) West Indies (Hall and Gilchrist, Roberts, Marshall, Joel Garner) and England (Larwood, Trueman) and New Zealand (Richard Hadlee ,Shane Bond).
Even Pakistan has been blessed by a bevy of speed merchants who cornered the world records like Wasim Akram, Shoib Akhtar,Imran Khan Md Sarfraz, Fazal Mahmood.
Now the system in India is changing for good. The pace bowling training centres like MRF Foundation have shaped several skilful new ball bowlers under the watchful eyes of Lilliee and McGrath. Even a Bumrah has had a spell training at the MRF Foundation and under Bharath Arun, who is currently the bowling coach for the Indian team in Australia.
The sequence of splendid showing by Bumrah and company is heart-warming. The support they lend to the spin trio Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav is praiseworthy.
It is unfortunate that the team lost the services of that gallant trier Hardik Pandya whose all -around showing in the T-20 series that preceded the Test matches was outstanding.
There is optimism now that India’s bowling strength both in pace and spin will be pronounced in the future making the team perhaps the strongest in the world before the forthcoming World Cup in England.