The decade that just went by saw Indian bowling, especially pace bowling, reach an unprecedented level of success. While the noughties were also witness to great pace bowling efforts from the likes of Ashish Nehra, Zaheer Khan and S Sreesanth, the second decade of the century saw Indian pacers terrorizing batsmen in a way few could have imagined earlier.
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The arrival of the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami along with the maturing of Ishant Sharma made India’s pace battery among the most formidable in the world. But let’s not forget India’s traditional strength of spin bowling; that prospered too, with the duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Pragyan Ojha also played a big role during his time in the Test team.
So as we enter the new decade with the Indian bowling attack being regarded as one of the most, if not the most, dangerous in the world, let us cast a nostalgic glance back at the five best Test bowling performances from Indian bowlers in the previous decade.
5. Umesh Yadav (5/93 vs Australia, Perth, 2012)
By the end of the last decade, the Indian pace bowling attack consisted of some of the fastest bowlers in the world. But the man who started this trend was Umesh Yadav, and he emerged on the scene in 2011. His best performance came in a match and a tour that was otherwise eminently forgettable for the Indian team.
At Perth, India got bowled out for just 161 on Day 1 and the Australian team had already reached 149/0 at the end of the last session. On Day 2, the Indian bowling attack performed much better and bowled out Australia for 369 - after they were 214/0 at one stage. The main man behind this brief success was Umesh Yadav.
Bowling at genuinely high speeds, he made full use of the pace and bounce that the WACA pitch was famous for. An Indian pace bowler troubling Aussie batsmen with speed was a sight that had rarely been seen till then. This performance was a silver lining amidst an utterly listless performance by the Indian team.
4. Ravindra Jadeja (7/48 vs England, Chennai, 2016)
The figures that Ravindra Jadeja registered in this innings were simply splendid, but they came when nobody quite expected it.
It was the final Test of a five-match series and the visitors were already down 3-0. They had to bat out the entire fifth day to avoid an innings defeat and a 4-0 result.
They batted out the first session without losing a wicket, and were 103/0 at one stage on a pitch which looked as flat as any. But then, the persistence of Jadeja and the incompetence of England's batsmen combined to get the visitors bowled out for 207.
Interestingly, it was Ravichandran Ashwin who had looked the most threatening in the first session. But once Jadeja opened the gates by getting the wicket of Alastair Cook, he unleashed a flood.
Jaddu, known for being incredibly accurate and unwavering in his line and length, saw off one batter after another to earn a victory for his team that proved to be the perfect cherry on top of the series win.
3. Mohammad Shami (6/56 vs Australia, Perth, 2018)
You have to watch the spells that Mohammad Shami bowled in this innings to realize the quality of his performance. At lunch on Day 4 of this Test match – the second in a series of four – Australia were comfortably placed at 190/4 and looking set to get a big score.
But then the new ball was taken, and Shami bowled like a man possessed. Using the pace and bounce available in the wicket, the Indian pacer delivered such a hostile spell that surviving, leave aside scoring, seemed nearly impossible for the Aussie batsmen.
They were forced to duck and dive, but they still couldn’t tackle the sharp bounce that Shami was getting.
It was a spell that made the pitch look unplayable, and many wondered how anyone could bat on it. However, as it later turned out, it wasn’t just the pitch but the pace and hard work of the Indian speedster that were making the Aussie batsmen look helpless.
This was indeed a rare sight – an Indian bowler bouncing out Australian batsmen. It was another testament to how far the Indian pace bowling has come.
2. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (6/82 vs England, Lord’s, 2014)
While the Indian pace attack these days is dominated by men who bowl at high speeds and get the ball to bounce sharply, the best exponent of swing bowling remains Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
When India took on England at Lord’s in the second Test of a five-match series, and a green-top was served up to favor the home team, Bhuvi proved to be the ace in the pack.
India didn’t have the advantage of bowling first, and by the time England’s innings came around, conditions had got slightly better. But Bhuvi didn’t let that trouble India much. He bowled with his usual accuracy and tested the batsmen with his line and length.
Unlike his home country where the ball stops moving as soon as it gets old, here Bhuvneshwar continued to get swing throughout the innings. He knocked over the top four batsmen in the English line-up including the centurion Gary Ballance, and then added two more to his kitty.
Interestingly, it wasn’t him who got the man-of-the-match award but Ishant Sharma, for getting a number of wickets in the second innings with bouncers. However, Ishant’s success was partly due to the ineptitude and poor shot selection of the English batsmen. Bhuvi, on the other hand, set up the game for India with his magnificent display.
1. Jasprit Bumrah (6/33 vs Australia, Melbourne, 2018)
The pitch at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) has come in for criticism in recent years. It has been regarded as too flat and placid, with very little for the bowlers to generate an exciting match. The Boxing Day Test of 2017 proved to be a boring and dour affair, ending in a draw.
When India batted first in the Boxing Day Test of the succeeding year, things seemed to be headed in the same direction. The visitors put up a big score of 443/7 declared and the Australian pace attack, a very competent one, seemed unable to make any impact. It was clear the pitch wasn’t very helpful to bowlers.
But when it was India’s turn to bowl, Jasprit Bumrah didn’t care for the track or the conditions and delivered a magnificent performance that bundled Australia out for just 151. This was the product of the high speed that Bumrah possesses, as well as his other skills.
The pacer from Gujarat never let the lack of help from the track deter him; he persisted with a hostile barrage at the home team’s batters.
Yes, the Australians were well below full strength, but the difficulty they faced in dealing with Bumrah’s deadly accurate and stinging deliveries was still remarkable.