Bundling out the West Indies team in a matter of 100 runs was quite a feat by the Indian team in the Antigua Test, the home of the great West Indian batsman Sir Vivian Richards. What was perhaps a bigger feat was that all the wickets were captured by Indian fast bowling threesome – Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jaspreet Bamra. Jaspreet Bamra’s five West Indian wickets for only seven runs in the 8 overs that he bowled was the outstanding performance of the match.
Gradually the Indian fast bowling unit is becoming fearsome with its clinical lethality. India was hardly ever known for fast bowlers. We were spinning kings of the world. We had world class spinners and we seem to have produced them one after another. It was always held that our pitches were not conducive to pace bowling and therefore the concentration was on encouraging spinners. Pitches were dressed for them and on many a time they played havoc with visiting foreign teams unable to read the spin that the Indians gave to that red cherry. Spin was the forte of the Indians.
That is, perhaps, no longer so. While they have world class spinners in Kuldeep Yadav, Yazuvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashvin in the current team they seem to be mere passengers. It is the pace attack that did in the West Indians at Antigua.
The Indian pace attack was a work in progress for quite some time and it seems it has evidently matured only now. With money being poured on finding new talent and training them under the best available trainers has given India a bunch of fast bowlers so much so that we have today a healthy bench strength – with some of the fastest being benched at Antigua. While the three named above devastated the West Indians there were three others viz., Saini, Umesh Yadav and Khaleel Mohammed waiting on the sidelines.
India was hardly ever known for its pace attack. After Mohammed Nissar and Amar Singh in the 1930s there was a drought and the country had largely to make do with medium pacers. Post Independence, one recalls, it was mainly Dattu Phadkar that the team relied on and he was only a medium pacer. From Phadkar to Kapil Dev there was a string of medium pacers who did duty as pace men. The name of Ramakant Desai readily comes to mind. Their only job was to take the shine off the ball to enable the spinners to get into action. If they got a few wickets in the process it was well and good. Wicket-taking was largely the responsibility of the spinners. Kapil Dev, however, was different. He, with his attitude and application became a successful genuine fast bowler. Attaining iconic status he started winning matches abroad for India capping his all-round performance with the 1983 World Cup.
Kapil Dev provided an idol. With his spontaneity and good and amiable ways he became a model to follow. No wonder soon there were Javagal Srinaths and Zaheer Khans and numerous others who came on the scene to give India the taste of fast bowling and the success and satisfaction it gave. But never before in the history of Indian Cricket there were so many pace men at one and the same time as at present to give the Indian skipper options to choose from.
And he chose well at Antigua for the Second Test. The three – Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jaspreet Bamra – are the best Indians in their business. Bamra, of course, excelled at Antigua grabbing a fifer for just seven runs in the West Indian second innings drawing complimentary comments from Andy Roberts and Courtly Ambrose – the two great West Indian exponents of pace bowling of yester years. Roberts seems to have gone lyrical in appreciation of Bamra’s pace, length and the movement he imparts to the ball. Earlier Bamra used to be essentially an in-swing bowler. Of late, he appears to have developed an out swinger that pitches on the middle or off stump and moves a shade away. And it is that ball that became lethal in Antigua slaying as many as five West Indians.
Obviously, a tremendous lot of effort has gone into making Bamrah and other fast bowlers what they are today – fast and fiery. The efforts of BCCI have paid off and India today is feared more, not for its spinners but for, quite ironically, its pace attack. The efforts need to continue as the country could do well with a few more Bamras on the pitch.