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
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
|R Vinay Kumar||2011-2013||29||29||36||36.13||5.85||37||1||0|
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
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.