A established ‘left-arm’ pacer is arguably the only missing factor in India’s pace attack for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand and subsequent Test series against England. Few would disagree, however, that India has never assembled such a formidable squad of fast bowlers for a Test series. Of course, the quartet of Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, and Umesh Yadav helped India secure its first-ever series on Australian soil in 2018, but the arrival of Mohammed Siraj, who can win a Test on his own, makes this bowling attack “potentially the best ever” in Indian cricket history.
The new Indian pace attack has a total of 700 Test wickets, which is very remarkable to see in Indian cricket. The last time an Indian attack had a force of nearly 700 wickets was in the late 1970s, when Bishan Singh Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Erapalli Prasanna, and Srinivas Venkataraghavan ruled the country.
After the spin quartet faded away, the advent of Kapil Dev as a world-class pace bowler revolutionised Indian cricket, but until recently, India would still fail to field four standard pace bowlers in a Test XI overseas. Not any more. Nobody could have predicted India winning a Test series in Australia in 2020 without Ishant (who was ruled out before the series began), Shami, or Umesh (both came back midway after getting injured).Bumrah did not participate in all four matches on the tour. And it was here that Siraj’s meteoric rise became such a fascinating tale of the Australian trip. Siraj is the least experienced of the five pacers, but he has proven that he has Umesh’s speed, Shami’s guile, and Bumrah’s temperament (to be a leader of a pace attack without much international experience). And who knows, if he can spend enough time with the seasoned quartet, he could last as long as Ishant (who has now played over 100 Tests).
Shami is the bond between the young generation of pacers like Bumrah and Siraj, who are in their late 20s, and Ishant and Umesh, who are in their late 30s. Shami, who is 30 years old, may not be the attack’s creator, but she may be the only key person who can unite people from different generations.
For all of the pacers, being in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand would be a fantasy come true. They’ve all been popular and have a good reputation. Bumrah will almost certainly be the first pacer on Virat Kohli’s final playing XI, despite the fact that, among pacers, no one has taken more wickets (85 wickets in 23 Tests) than Shami since 2018. As a result, there is no question about who will be Bumrah’s chosen mate. Even though Yadav has a higher strike rate (35.1) than Ishant (43) since 2018, the Nagpur pacer will have to wait for the veteran.
About the fact that Ishant did not appear in any of the Tests during the triumphant 2007 tour of England, he was a member of the team (not officially as a net bowler but someone to be groomed for future).
Ishant had a good start in 2011 before being hospitalised, and he even claimed a Test by himself in 2014 (a match-winning 7/74 in the second innings at Lord’s). In effect, the Delhi pacer has toured England with every Indian team for the past 15 years. And his teammates would profit from his experience.
Kohli must be crossing his fingers despite having so many world-class pacers at his disposal. There is already a month before India’s squad departs for England. With too much going on off the field in the Covid time and bio-bubble life, it’s impossible to be confident that all the pacers will be available. However, if all of the pace bowlers stay fit and ready to go in June, not only Kohli, but Indian cricket as a whole, will be fortunate to see such an assembly of pace bowlers for a crucial match.
Never before or since the Caribbean juggernaut of the late 1970s and the Australian juggernaut at the turn of the century has a team seen such a fantastic pace attack. This attack will really be the coming of age for the Indian pace attack if it can help India win a Test championship final and a Test series in England after a 15-year hiatus.