Hostile pace attack adds new dimension to Indian Test team

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As a team, you can prepare for various challenges. But there is not a lot you can do against top-class fast bowling. And the emphasis here is on fast.

Over the years, India was known as the land of sublime batsmen and wily spinners. Fast bowlers? Nope.

There were many theories about why a vast country like India did not produce high-quality and genuine fast bowlers with the regularity of their neighbours Pakistan. Diet, genetics, condition of pitches and absence of role models were some of the reasons given for India’s poor pace bowling stocks.

However in the past season or so, there has been a sea change in India’s fast bowling landscape. Right from the Under-19 level to senior cricket, India now fields bowlers who consistently bowl in the 140kph mark and that is some achievement.

During the South Africa tour earlier this year, India were up against some of the most menacing pitches and hostile pace attacks in contemporary cricket with the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi in the opposition camp. They lost 2-1 but not before giving the South Africans a taste of their own medicine. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma rattled the Proteas with sustained pace as seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar held his own with his accuracy.

Former South Africa coach Ray Jennings said teams can’t afford to prepare green tracks against India anymore as the pace bowling scenario has changed.

“Ten years ago, India didn’t have any fast bowlers. Now they have so many, starting from Under-19 itself. The minimum they bowl is 135 (kph) which used to be maximum years ago,” Jennings said.

Obviously, pace isn’t everything. In fact, misdirected pace can bleed a team dry as runs can leak thick and fast.

But in the ongoing Test series against England, India have shown that superiority in the speed department is a great asset to have.

India entered the third Test in Trent Bridge 2-0 down, with their confidence in batting at a low and with their premier seam bowler – Bhuvneshwar – unavailable. Bumrah, their next best hope, was returning after more than a month nursing a finger injury. No one knew what would happen.

And then, the Indians got lucky. They were asked to bat first in what turned out to be pristine batting conditions on day one. The pitch in Nottingham quickened up on the second day and by that time, India had more than 300 on board and their pacers were ready to make life miserable for the hosts.

From the moment Bumrah took the new ball in the first innings, England were on the backfoot. His pace remained a few notches below the 90mph mark, along with Shami, and England couldn’t find a way out.

All four Indian pacers were on average quicker than their English counterparts. Bumrah, Shami and Pandya touched 90mph at various points during the third Test. Bumrah, in fact, maintained an average speed of over 85mph for nearly 30 overs in the second innings, which is almost unheard of.

Bumrah’s dismissal of Chris Woakes in the second innings summed up India’s pace bowling at the moment. A nasty bouncer directed at the grill of the helmet found the glove to the keeper. It was a moment to cherish for fast bowling enthusiasts like me.

India don’t have their best asset in English conditions – Bhuvi – with them at the moment. But in the absence of his exemplary skill, they have done rather well. Ishant is the leader of the pack and even though he has been around for more than a decade, his speeds are still right up there close to the 140kph mark.

It is this sustained hostility which gives Virat Kohli the confidence to aim for victory every single time. India’s batsmen failed in the first two Tests. The moment they gave the bowlers a good total to bowl at, they showed what they can do. Coach Ravi Shastri said this is by far the best Indian pace attack in its cricketing history. And looking at their efforts over the last season, I have to say it indeed is the golden age of Indian pace bowling.

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Watch: Coach Shastri says India want to be best touring side in the world

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India coach Ravi Shastri said his team wants to be the best touring side in the world after winning the third Test at Trent Bridge against England by 203 runs.

Shastri lauded an all-round performance from the Indian team in all departments as the visitors reduced the series deficit to 2-1 with two more Tests to play.

“In the four years I’ve been doing this job, I think if you look at a clinical performance overseas, I think this has to be the best,” Shatsri said.

“The endeavour of this team is to be the best travelling team in the world.”

Watch the video below.

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India's U-19 World Cup winner Prithvi Shaw selected for last two Tests against England

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Prithvi Shaw (r).

Teenage batting prodigy Prithvi Shaw has been added to India‘s squad for the final two Tests against England.

The 18-year-old opener has registered seven centuries in his 14 first-class matches to date and captained India Under-19s to World Cup glory earlier this year. Shaw joins fellow batsman Hanuma Vihari in the squad, with opener Murali Vijay and left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav dropping out.

Vijay was absent from India’s 203-run victory at Trent Bridge, which narrowed the series deficit to 2-1, after making a pair in the second Test at Lord’s.

Kuldeep, a key figure in India’s limited-overs sides, similarly failed to score a run across two innings at the Home of cricket and was nonthreatening with the ball.

Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar is another notable omission from the squad, having missed the first three Tests with a back injury.

India squad for the fourth and fifth Tests : Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Karun Nair, Hanuma Vihari, Dinesh Karthik (wicketkeeper), Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur.

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