Come to think, it might have been a blessing in disguise that India lost one fast bowler after another in the riveting four-Test series in Australia which ended this week.
The example of Australia would suffice since they played the same set of pacemen in four Tests and by the end of it, at least in the case of Mitchell Starc, the energy tanks were empty.
In contrast, India kept introducing fresh pair of legs Test after Test, as the likes of Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah fell by the wayside.
It holds a lesson for Indian cricket which I would just go on and elaborate upon.
Long gone are the days when one Sunil Manohar Gavaskar would “menacingly” roll up his sleeves and open the bowling for India in Test cricket even as members of the famed spin quartet would be going through their minimal warm-up drills in the field even before the first ball was bowled!
The recent tour of Australia has confirmed that Team India now has a healthy crop of new ball bowlers that can be called upon whenever required.
Actually, the stable may be a bit over-crowded with as many as eight men jostling for positions – Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Siraj, Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini.
Such was the impact in Brisbane that rookie Siraj led the pack and returned with rich laurels, including his maiden five-wicket haul in Test cricket.
Full credit must go to Team India bowling coach Bharat Arun for, not just the storming of the Gabba fortress, but instilling a self-belief in the bowling pack. Little wonder that picking up 20 wickets appeared a given despite all the doubts cast about the lack of international exposure to the entire pace pack.
As the saying goes in the world of cricket, fast bowlers need to be handled somewhat like the thoroughbreds in horse-racing! Slightest injury can upset the rhythm and hence effectiveness though this Indian octet seems to have so far found answers to most problems.
In fact, the competition is so intense to book a place in the playing eleven that fitness issues will need to be addressed quickly rather than allow things to linger as had been the case not so long ago when there was hardly any worthwhile back-up for the lead bowlers.
Soon the Team India think-tank may be taking a close look at the deck before naming the players for a particular game.
But this revolution did not happen overnight.
Long hours in the nets and then performing at various club and state levels before emerging on the national selection committee’s radar is a story of blood, sweat and toil for each man. But that they fit into the scheme of things on the national scene is a credit to Arun, who may himself have had a not so pleasant start to his short international career as he slipped and fell at the bowling crease on the first ball itself. That he dusted himself off the deck and continued in brave fashion shows the man’s character.
Indeed, it would be a proud moment for the five wise men of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s selection committee headed by none other than former paceman Chetan Sharma, to be updated about the workload management schedules for each of the men in reckoning. It may sound like something out of a dream for the chairman himself!
But it’s true!
Ravi Kant Singh is a sports writer, analyst and broadcaster since 1984, having covered a wide spectrum of sports—Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, FIFA World Cup, Cricket World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy, to name a few.
While working for ESPN Star Sports, he was a regular commentator for NBA, tennis, golf and many a major soccer leagues of Europe and South America. He has also pushed the cart of new home-grown leagues in India: Pro Kabaddi and Hockey India league, being involved with both since launch.