The pack is one of the most terrifying predators out in the wild. A pack of dogs is a dangerous opponent even to larger and stronger prey. The pack works superbly as a team, taking turns in scattering, isolating, chasing, sniping and constantly biting and bleeding the fleeing larger prey. They bleed it with constant bites to legs, belly and other vulnerable parts. They take turns doing this during the chase until the larger animal is worn down and bled to incapacitation. The pack then feeds on the large kill and wipes it out in less than a couple of minutes.
In many ways the Indian bowling unit, once its weakest element, resembles the ruthless efficiency of the pack. The bowlers hunt down the opponents, working not in pairs, but as a pack, with each taking his turn in debilitating the opponent.
It may be recalled that the formidable Australian team of yesteryears inspired a jingle: ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust; If Thommo don’t get you, Lillee must’. With this present Indian bowling that jingle might well end: ‘If Bhuvi don’t get you, then Bumrah or Yuzi or Kuldeep or Pandya must!’
The manner in which the bowling line-up worked as a cohesive unit and choked the New Zealanders to death at Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday was nothing short of breath-taking.
They bowled and fielded as if their life depended on every ball. It probably did, at least in this match. The fact that rains had reduced it to an 8-overs-a-side match might have had something to do with the prolonged level of intensity. Nevertheless, the aggression with which the bowlers bowled and the stupendous commitment with which the fielders threw themselves into the job was a sight for sore eyes.
The most remarkable aspect was the flair with which they thought and planned on their feet. Jasprit Bumrah said after the match, “We saw how their fast bowlers had bowled slower and thus got the ball to grip the surface. We tried it. It didn’t work for us so we swiftly adopted a different approach.”
Bhuvaneshwar Kumar showed this with the ‘knuckle ball’ and constant change of length choking the batsmen. Bumrah’s mix of pace, direction and length kept them on the hop; Chahal was as aggressive as ever with his wider leg spin being mixed with flat top spin. Yadav and Pandya each bowled just one crucial over apiece. Everyone, in the stands, ground and elsewhere knew they’d be targeted. But both were ready and ensured that they did not offer anything in the slot. Yes, they gave away 21 runs in those two overs. But in the context of the match that was acceptable.
Indeed it is not every day that a team can defend a paltry target of 67 runs. The fact that India’s bowlers did it in a decider, on home soil and in front of a packed gathering is all the more praiseworthy. The pressure owing to all the above factors would have been excruciating. But the bowlers and fielders stood up to it magnificently to turn the screws on the Kiwis.
Right through this series of limited over matches, ODIs and T20Is, the bowlers have come good time and again. Even in hostile conditions, like in the Mumbai ODI when the Indian batting fell 30 runs short of expectations or in the Rajkot T20I when Colin Munro had a field day on a flat track, the bowlers did better than expected.
In this skipper Kohli’s attitude and approach while forging the bowlers into one strong unit must be appreciated. He has given them all the support on and off the field. He has always talked them up in interviews and media briefing and not shown his disapproval of their tactics even once on the field.
Even when he had to play Ashish Nehra in the Delhi T20, he preferred not to weaken or disturb his bowling line-up. He simply played Nehra as the sixth bowler, thus ensuring that no regular bowler would be disheartened at being stood down in preference of a has-been.
Even in the decider T20I he fielded five bowlers when just four would have done the trick. (The new ICC regulations allow maximum of two overs per bowler in truncated matches. Hence four bowlers could have bowled the 8 overs).
This ensured that the Kiwis would be in a state of flux, not knowing who would send down the final over. In the bargain they took one too many risks in the penultimate over sent down by leader of the pack, Bumrah and lost two vital wickets in that over.
Certainly there is a nice ring to the current crop of bowlers. The fact that there are another three or four top class bowlers waiting in the wings marks this pack as the most potent in Indian history.