Bowling troubles deeper than just the pace

Whenever India plays a series, the bowling is always under the scanner. The Indian bowling once again had a horrid time against SA where the team lost both the ODI and T20 series. The fans and experts alike feel that India not favoring the genuine quicks is the major reason for India’s woes in the bowling department. I beg to differ and I don’t think the pace has anything to do with the bowling troubles India has been having over the years. Let us look at the Indian pace bowlers over the last 5 years (A random time period I picked for this analysis) for India in tests (Table A).

TABLE A: Top Indian pacers in tests over the last 5 years

Player Span Mat Inns
Wkts
BBM Ave Econ SR 5 10
I Sharma 2010-2015 38 67 124 10/108 35.95 3.3 65.3 6 1
Z Khan 2010-2014 18 30 57 7/130 35.12 3.07 68.6 1 0
UT Yadav 2011-2015 15 28 48 7/103 38.56 4.31 53.6 1 0
Mohammed Shami 2013-2015 12 23 47 9/118 36.14 3.8 57 2 0
B Kumar 2013-2015 12 20 29 6/103 35 3.18 65.9 2 0

As expected Ishant Sharma tops the list as he has played the most tests by the pacers during this time period. Let’s ignore, Zaheer as he has already retired from all forms of the game. In terms of averages all the bowlers are the same with Umesh Yadav and Mohd Shami having better strike rates. The other important factor to consider is the economy rates. Both these bowlers on an average go at 4 runs per over in tests. It is too high when you consider their high average. It means that Shami and Yadav pick wickets at the same price as Ishant and Bhuvneshwar but concede runs at a higher rate. This means that the captain has less control over the proceedings and has to spread the field out to stem the flow of runs when wickets aren’t falling. This is a major issue with the pacers. Let us compare this with the two Australian quicks who aren’t very much known for their control M Johnson and M Starc. Both these bowlers bowl extremely quick and still have an economy rate of under 3.5 in tests and obviously their average and SR are better than any Indian pacer.

TABLE B: Top Indian pacers in ODI over last 5 years

Player Span Mat Inns
Wkts
Ave Econ SR 4 5
Mohammed Shami 2013-2015 47 46 87 24.89 5.54 26.9 5 0
UT Yadav 2011-2015 49 48 71 30.87 5.84 31.6 3 0
B Kumar 2012-2015 55 55 60 36.45 4.82 45.2 2 0
I Sharma 2011-2015 31 30 43 31.74 5.61 33.9 2 0
Z Khan 2010-2012 25 25 41 27.26 4.99 32.7 0 0
R Vinay Kumar 2011-2013 29 29 36 36.13 5.85 37 1 0
MM Patel 2010-2011 25 24 34 29.08 5.13 33.9 2 0
MM Sharma 2013-2015 26 25 31 32.9 5.45 36.1 1 0
P Kumar 2010-2012 22 22 21 43.9 5.23 50.2 0 0
IK Pathan 2011-2012 13 13 21 28.38 5.4 31.4 1 1
STR Binny 2014-2015 14 12 20 21.95 5.37 24.5 0 1

Now let us look at the Table B. This table shows the Indian pace bowlers performance in ODI’s. A format in which the Indian pace bowlers have had most issues in the recent past. Looking at the list it is clear that Mohd Shami has been India’s best bowler in this format. His bowling average and SR is the best among all bowlers who have ever played for India in this format. When we go through the list, all the pace bowlers who have played significant number of games in this format have a familiar pattern. All the Indian bowlers baring Bhuvneshwar Kumar have an economy rate of 5 or more. Umesh Yadav almost goes at 6 runs an over in the 49 games he has played during this period. His average and SR isn’t as good a Mohd Shami. So UT Yadav is neither giving the captain the control nor is he giving him wickets quicker than other bowlers in the list. So their lies the problem as pace or no pace, the Indian fast men perform the same except for Mohd Shami.

TABLE C: All bowlers in all formats in the last 5 years

Player Span Mat Inns
Wkts
Ave Econ SR 5 10
R Ashwin 2010-2015 152 175 309 29.55 3.86 45.8 12 3
RA Jadeja 2010-2015 112 120 169 31.25 3.88 48.2 3 0
I Sharma 2010-2015 72 100 169 35.1 3.69 57 6 1
Mohammed Shami 2013-2015 63 73 139 28.7 4.68 36.7 2 0
UT Yadav 2011-2015 65 77 120 33.89 5.03 40.3 1 0
Z Khan 2010-2014 48 60 102 31.77 3.63 52.5 1 0
B Kumar 2012-2015 80 88 102 34.27 4.28 48 2 0
Harbhajan Singh 2010-2015 45 59 84 35.86 3.38 63.6 1 0
PP Ojha 2010-2013 18 34 84 26.46 2.59 61.1 7 1
A Mishra 2011-2015 33 36 73 23.63 4.24 33.3 1 0
P Kumar 2010-2012 35 40 53 33.58 3.83 52.5 1 0

The Table C provides us the list of all bowlers who have played significant number of games for India in all formats. We can clearly see who our best bowlers have been over the last 5 years. Ashwin and Jadeja has been India’s mainstay in all three formats. Their combined economy rate of fewer than 4 is outstanding. Not only do they don’t concede runs on a platter they also pick wickets at a faster rate than everyone except for Shami. After the two spinners we have Ishant and Shami, both have been good with the ball. Ishant has mostly played in tests and Shami mostly in ODI. While Ishant has done well for India in tests but has struggled in ODI’s, Shami has had the same problem in reverse.

So just having bowlers with pace isn’t going to help the Indian team to fix their bowling issues. India need bowlers who can not only pick wickets but also provide the control needed when the captain needs the same. The Indian captains now look to the spinners to provide that control when the things are going out of hand. This leaves the Indian spinners to bowl restrictive lines to stem the flow of runs. The Indian pace bowlers need to take a hard look at themselves and need to see how they can improve. There is no point in blaming the captain for choosing one bowler over the other. The extra pace is not going to solve the problem. We can see from Table B that pace is neither helping India to get wickets at a faster rate nor is it keeping runs in check. This is something which the BCCI and the coaches need to work with the bowlers.

Till something is done by the pacers to improve their control no matter what bowlers India play in all formats the result is going to remain the same.

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