Does anyone remember when was the last time an Indian bowling attack out-performed, out-smarted and out-bowled a Pakistani bowling unit with such regularity?
It speaks volumes of the extraordinary strides made by India’s bowlers that they were head and shoulders above their Pakistani counterparts in not one, but two successive One-Day Internationals (ODIs) at the Asia Cup in Dubai.
Barring the lone over from Bhuvaneshwar Kumar when two length deliveries were muscled out of the park by Asif Ali, pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvi consistently performed far better than Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Afridi, and Hasan Ali.
Bumrah, in particular, had the batsmen on a tight leash, jerking them around with his varied length, line, and pace.
The spinners were even more impressive. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal literally drilled holes in the Pakistani resistance with their spin and flight. The sore point might have been Ravindra Jadeja. But his pacy left-arm spin has seldom bowled over the Pakistanis.
In the Champions Trophy final in England last year, the Pakistanis whacked him for 67 runs from eight overs. Likewise, here too he struggled to keep a check on Sarfraz Ahmed (44) and Shoaib Malik (78) and gave away 50 runs from 9 wicketless overs. Despite this, Pakistan’s batsmen were unable to gallop to safety against the varied Indian attack.
In the past, Pakistan cricket was known to throw up world-class fast bowlers: Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Aaquib Javed, Shoaib Akhtar, Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Sami, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, and more recently, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, et al.
India simply did not have similar firepower, though, Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and others played a lone hand every now and then.
It is only of late that a new generation of fast bowlers, who are as good as any in world cricket, has emerged.
They served notice of their terrific potential in the recently-concluded Test series in England. Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and Umesh Yadav consistently bowled faster and better than England’s renowned pacers James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Even England’s many former Test captains, such as Nasser Hussain, Michael Atherton, Ian Botham, David Gower grudgingly acknowledged this.
Even earlier, in South Africa, a fit and aggressive Bhuvi, with the others showed that they were not in any way inferior to South Africa’s excellent pace attack.
Pakistan in the days of yore could call upon not just brilliant fast bowlers, but also some really outstanding spinners, each capable of winning matches on his own.
Iqbal Qasim and Tausif Ahmed, for instance, were far more potent than Maninder Singh, Shivlal Yadav and Ravi Shastri in Sunil Gavaskar’s final Test. They bowled Pakistan to a rare victory on Indian soil.
Even otherwise, the web spun by the stirring deeds of Abdul Qadir, Saqlain Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmed, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi ensured that Pakistan were as good as India in the spin bowling arena, if not better.
However, India’s many talent promotion activities, including honing bowling skills at the highly competitive IPL has given the team a decisive edge.
Additionally, the aggressive mindset of the two young spinners — Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav — is something else altogether. They might get taken to the cleaners in the odd match, but the manner in which they are all the time at the batsmen is incredible.
Chahal comes to bowl in powerplay overs with the intent of not just to stem the run-flow, but also to pick wickets. Sunday was no different. He trapped opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq in front in the eighth over of the innings to set the tone.
Kuldeep was just as assertive. His dismissal of skipper Sarfraz at the critical point in the innings derailed Pakistan’s chances of running up a huge score.
Impressively, India’s bowlers kept the pressure on the batsmen. They scarcely bowled a bad ball and this, along with some excellent ground fielding, throttled the opposition’s ambition of running up a gigantic total.
Pakistan, of course, were hopeful that once they ran up a big total, their famed bowling attack could keep India’s batting under check. But on the day their bowling department was not a patch on India’s. The pace trio of Amir, Afridi and Hasan Ali were not only ineffective but their inability to bowl tight lines and pressurise the batsmen was glaring. They leaked runs on either side of the pitch.
Sure there was no help from the docile pitch. But Pakistan’s bowlers evidently lacked the discipline to bowl tight lines. In this aspect, India’s pacers were spot-on while the spinners attacked relentlessly to make inroads.
India’s bowling attack — once their bugbear — seems to be on a different trajectory of late. They made their mark in South Africa and England. Now, by outperforming traditional bowling powerhouse Pakistan, they have set standards that will be tough to match.