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Showing content with the highest reputation since 10/19/2018 in Articles

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    Indian fast bowler, Md. Shami, was on fire during the closing stages of the Johannesburg test match in January 2018. As quick yorkers and stump directed deliveries came spearing in one after another, the South Africans were losing wickets fast and crashing to a test defeat on their home turf. And we won rather quickly after this. This test match win was rather unique ... India won it without playing a single spinner while playing 4 specialist fast bowlers and a seamer-allrounder ... for the first time in our history. And what an elated feeling it was for the fast bowling fans of India ! Forty years back, the only way to differentiate between an Indian pacer and an Indian spinner was to look at the length of their run-ups. After that, we produced one good test quality pacer per decade ... Kapil in the 1980s starting 1978, Srinath in the 1990s and Zaheer in the 2000s. The 2010s decade saw a sea change. With much improved strength and endurance training, nutrition, world class facilities and fitness coaches at the NCA, rampant use of speed-guns in coaching facilities, good cricket infrastructure in many parts of India, bubbling confidence of Indians due to a fast growing economy, rookie pacers interacting with world class coaches and players in the IPL, good U19 and A-team structure etc. ... fast bowling culture finally arrived in India. And in 2018, we have so many good quality genuine fast bowlers right from the U16 stage to the senior team. Now, the 5 test series in England is about to be played. Let us take a look at the resources available to us. Pacers selected in the squad to England for the first 3 tests -- Jasprit Bumrah Age 24 Test Average 25.2 and SR 48.1 Speed range in test matches - 135 k to 148 k Bowling style - Right arm fast Bumrah is a hit-the-deck genuine fast bowler who is around 6 feet tall. He has a high arm and unorthodox action. Gets good bounce , zip off the deck and seam movement wherever possible and is a very accurate bowler. He started off as a pacer who bowled indippers most of the time ... but in the last 9 months he has also developed the delivery that moves away slightly. This has made him a very dangerous bowler. He is a thinking bowler who adapts to situations fast and is a quick learner. This, along with his ability to combine pace and bounce with skills, has made him a genuine wicket taker. He bowled with great intensity and pace in his debut test series in South Africa and ended up with 14 wickets from 3 tests ... and his transition from white ball to red ball cricket was rather smooth. His unfortunate thumb injury will make him miss the first test. I hope he gets fit for the second game. He has all the qualities to be the leader of our pace attack. Md. Shami Age 28 Test average 28.9 and SR 51.2 Speed range in test matches - 135 k to 147 k Bowling style - Right arm fast He is a short, well built, genuine fast bowler who combines pace and bounce with good skills and has an excellent ball release and seam position. He is a master of reverse swing both ways and gets consistent seam movement too wherever available. Although not a classical swing bowler, he can bowl conventionally swinging balls when conditions are helpful ... and takes the ball away from the right-handeres. He also has a vicious and skiddy bouncer which he uses liberally. Shami in full flow is a sight to behold and this has made him a low average and low SR bowler. But his career has been marred by knee injuries which has made him miss many a series. Adding to his injury woes has been some acute marital problems in the last 8 months, which has shaken him mentally. I hope he is in the mental frame of mind to give his one hundred percent in the upcoming test series. If he is firing on all cylinders, our job will become much easier in England. Umesh Yadav Age 30 Test average 34.9 and SR 58.0 Speed range in test matches - 135 k to 150 k ( but has bowled 130 k to 145 k in the last few months ) Bowling style - Right arm fast He is a skiddy fast bowler, around 5'11" , who can combine pace with outswing. But his weaknesses are lack of consistency, accuracy and insufficient bounce for such a quick bowler. He has a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome. We dont know which Umesh we are going to get, the magical wicket-taker or the club level bowler. Another problem he has developed in the last few months is bowling slower than he can. This is not a good idea for anybody, but especially for someone whose USP is pace. He has done it perhaps in search of accuracy. That hasn't happened though as most pacers are most accurate when they are bowling in full rhythm and normal pace. Bowling slower or faster than usual, both affect accuracy adversely. If he can combine outswing, pace and good lines ... he can be a handful in England. Ishant Sharma Age 29 Test average 35.5 and SR 65.9 Speed range in test matches - 132 k to 145 k Bowling style - Right arm fast-medium He is a 6'5" hit the deck pacer who has been around for more than 10 years. A slow learner and sub-par performer, he is lucky to have survived this long. But, in the last 4 years he has added value, in overseas test matches, as a workhorse pacer who can get in a lot of overs at a low economy rate while hitting the deck hard and maintaining lively pace. He has recently had a county stint and seems to have developed a better inswinger. His perennial problem has been bowling a bit shorter than ideal length and we will see whether this aspect has improved. Shardul Thakur Age 26 Test average - Yet to debut Speed range in FC matches - 130 k to 142 k Bowling style - Right arm fast-medium A short skiddy pacer, around 5'9" ... he seems to be the automatic backup seamer in all formats the moment someone is injured or rested. But is definitely not the best choice available, with so much good quality fast bowling talent available in India now. He is primarily an outswing bowler. If he can bowl a good line and length then he can be successful in England due to his ability to get outswing. He has a decent bouncer too. We have to see whether he can sustain pace in test matches. He is such a short seamer bowling at standard pace, whether he can make an impact, if the dry English summer does not offer much swing, needs to be seen too. Pacers who barely missed out due to injury or otherwise -- Bhuvneshwar Kumar ( injured ) Age 28 Test average 26.1 and SR 53.1 Speed range in test matches - 127 k to 142 k Bowling style - Right arm fast-medium India's best swing bowler who is capable of picking regular five-fors in helpful conditions or on greentops. His unavailability in swing-friendly England, atleast for the first 3 tests, is a big blow for us. He has a good seam position and can swing the ball both ways if conditions favour conventional swing, get some seam movement on greentops and is an accurate and thinking bowler. He often looks innocuous on flat or slow tracks though. After adding some pace and bounce, Bhuvi has become very competitive in test matches. He will be missed. Md. Siraj Age 24 Test average - Yet to debut Speed range - Was Bowling 135 k to 150 k in T20s ... Can he bowl 135 k to 145 k in tests ? Bowling style - Right arm fast-medium / fast A wiry, skiddy fast bowler, around 6'1", Siraj has progressed very fast after FC debut, with stellar FC, List A and A-team performances. He can bowl with genuine pace but does not always do so. His speed has improved a lot in the last 4 months. He started off as a bowler who bowled indippers mostly, but saw him bowling the away going delivery rather regularly on the just finished A-team tour to England. Previosly, most of his wickets were via skiddy quick stump directed deliveries, which fetches him lots of bowled and LBWs. He has been getting quite a few caught behinds in recent times. He has been in red hot form in the just concluded 4 day A-team series. Has picked up 15 wickets in 2 matches. Should have been picked in the test squad. Ankit Rajpoot Age 24 Test average - Yet to debut Speed range in FC matches - 130 k to 143 k Bowling style - Right arm fast-medium He is a very tall outswing bowler, around 6'3" maybe, who bowls at a lively pace. Can hit the deck hard when needed, for bounce and seam movement. Bowls a beautiful line and length too. Could have been an ideal pick for England but got injured just before the test squad was announced. He has been playing FC for a long time and has done well in both FC and on A-tours. His issues can be ... he is sometimes unable to maintain pace and intensity in 4-day matches. Navdeep Saini Age 25 Test average - Yet to debut Speed range in FC - 133 k to 145 k Bowling style - Right arm fast A skiddy fast bowler, around 6'0", he bowls a wonderful line targeting the top of off stump. He can seam the ball both ways. He bowled at high pace and with good intensity in the knock-out matches of last year's Ranji Trophy and picked up lots of wickets including fifers. He has been playing for India-A for 2 seasons now and was picked in our Test squad in the one off test versus Afghanistan. Conclusion -- If we had our 3 low-average and low-strike-rate pacers available for this test series ... Bumrah, Shami and Bhuvneshwar ... then our pace attack would have posed a tough challenge for England. Unfortunately, Bhuvi is injured and Bumrah will miss the first test atleast. This situation makes our pace attack hit or miss for the first test ... and it is time our 3 senior pacers, Shami, Ishant and Umesh, put their hands up and show some consistency and intensity. Things should improve if Bumrah is fit from the second test match onwards.

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