Indian cricket is in for exciting times. For the first time in living memory there is a pack of bowlers capable of injecting shock and awe in rival ranks.
This says a lot for a national team that for ever so long had just one bowler to harry the opposition, whether Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble or Ravichandran Ashwin. And most of the times these bowlers needed ideal conditions whether at home or abroad to prise out batsmen.
But now India have pacers up front who can trigger anxiety with their seam, swing and pace, followed by a couple young spinners who are as aggressive and hungry for success as the new ball bowlers.
In fact it was quite a magnificent sight to see the mental disintegration of Australian batsmen over the last few weeks. David Warner, for instance, has been so unsure of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar’s swing and seam movement that it has left him leaden-footed. He seemed to be throwing his bat at the ball, often with disastrous consequences.
Another player whose mind is shot to pieces is Glenn Maxwell. The once-feared stroke player who revelled in sweeping and reverse-sweeping spinners at will has been so completely unnerved by leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal that he believes that the only chance of survival is to go after the bowler. He has paid the price time and again in this series — the latest being in the first T20 international when his muddled mind caused him to hastily pull a short-pitched delivery straight to short mid-wicket.
Another terrific performer has been Kuldeep Yadav. The left-arm wrist spinner celebrated the confidence reposed in him with yet another display of outstanding bowling.
The most impressive aspect of Kuldeep’s bowling is his consistency with length and line. Wrist spin is a very tough art and barely a handful of bowlers could be said to have mastered it. The biggest problem with imparting huge leg spin or googly is control over length and line. In comparison finger spin is an easier proposition.
Kuldeep showed for the umpteenth time this year that he could turn out to be one of India’s most outstanding back-of-the-hand bowlers. His googlies are spot on almost always. The unerring consistency with which he delivers his chinaman and googlies has been a revelation.
What a refreshing sight it was to see the way he played the well-set Aaron Finch. He kept the ball up to him and encouraged the sweep shot. The one time Finch was caught in two minds, whether to drive or sweep the ball, spelt his doom. The ball went through the gate between his tangled foot and closed bat to rattle the stumps.
The manner in which Kuldeep bowled slower and pitched short to fox the advancing Moises Henriques was another beauty and spoke enormously of his skill and ability to instantly grasp and react to a situation.
Jasprit Bumrah, like Lasith Malinga of the old, is turning out to be a cult figure in T20 cricket. His pace, yorkers, change of pace, unorthodox bowling action has made him a high quality bowler in a batsman’s game. He can change the complexion of a game in an over or two.
The only weak link in this attack seems to be all-rounder Hardik Pandya. But he is young and learning the trade. Kohli shrewdly took the medium pacer off the firing line when Maxwell and Finch went after him (2-0-23-0), and reintroduced him when new batsmen came to the crease.
There is little doubt that this bowling attack has cut its teeth superbly in sub-continent conditions. Its growing prowess will be vindicated when it performs in distant shores. The forthcoming tours of South Africa and later England should present that opportunity.
The reassuring part is that there is plenty of firepower to choose from. Two other outstanding fast bowlers, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav could be unleashed at any moment. Additionally the tall, gangling Ishant Sharma too could be summoned if further pace bowling option were required.
This sudden glut of bowling talent extends to the spin department too. Not so long ago the spin bowling cupboard looked bare. But now, it is overflowing with quality bowlers in the form of Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep and Chahal.
In short the impressive, overwhelming performance of the bowlers has given Indian cricket a tremendous shot in the arm. It has opened up possibilities that were unthinkable for a long, long time. The onus is to now live up to the promise.