Experts considering an Indian bowling attack at par with its South African counterparts — a scenario, which is quite unheard of, isn’t it?
Well, the upcoming three-Test series between India and South Africa is indeed going to be a battle of two exiting bowling units. At one side there is the tried and tested Protea attack, which is known for its killer instincts, whereas on the other hand, we have an immensely talented bunch of Indian seamers, who are keen on proving their worth, overseas.
For any Indian cricket enthusiast, it is indeed a dream come true. Finally, India have a fast bowling line-up which not only matches the Proteas bowling attack but also outbowls any attacks in the world, both in terms of pace and skills.
Since the 2016-17 home season, there has been a revolution in Indian pace bowling. The likes of Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma have bowled their heart out. On flat, non-responsive Indian wickets, they generated some serious pace – touching the 145kph mark quite frequently. Furthermore, they have been accurate in their lengths. Hence, the lethal combination of pace and accuracy produced wickets.
In fact, India have seldom before had as many quality pacers at their command at one point. The impressive part is, whether it is Shami or Umesh or Bhuvneshwar or Ishant Sharma; everyone has not only chipped in but at times outclassed each other. This attitude has created a healthy competition in the bowling department.
And remember, in the ‘Rainbow Nation’, Virat Kohli will have six fast bowling options. The above mentioned four front-line pacers will be joined by Jasprit Bumrah – a prove performer in white-ball cricket and all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who with his hit-the-deck kind of bowling is capable of chipping in with 12-15 over in a day easily.
Going into the tour of South Africa — where the wickets are expected to have a fair bit of pace, bounce and carry — this in-form seam attack is one of the prime reasons why currently there is a fair bit of optimism in the Indian camp regarding this tour.
However, on earlier tours, we had seen Indian pacers got carried away with their line and length when they got pacer-friendly wickets. Thus, on this occasion, there should not be a repetition of this age-old mistake. If there is juice on the surface, they need to pitch the ball fuller on a consistent basis rather than trying out different things. Patience will be the key there.
Also, at times we have seen someone like Umesh, Shami and Ishant haven’t made the batsmen play enough, especially with the new ball. In South Africa, where the new ball will be the premier wicket-taking option, they have to adjust their lines and bowl within the stumps as much as possible.
With these small adjustments, the Indian think-tank can genuinely consider this seam attack capable enough to bowl out the opposition twice in the match.
For South Africa, the return of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander into the mix for the four-day Test against Zimbabwe is a good news. Steyn has not played international cricket after suffering a shoulder injury in Perth last year, whereas Philander missed the home series against Bangladesh due to a back problem, which he suffered in England, during the last tour.
Both are fit and raring to go and the Zimbabwe game will be a good opportunity for the duo to get rid of their rustiness.
In fact, another primer pacer Morne Morkel is also making a comeback onto the field in the Zimbabwe game after being sidelined for three months due to a grade-two tear of the left abdominal oblique muscle, which he sustained during the Potchefstroom Test against Bangladesh. He too will get some vital match practice during the Boxing Day Test.
Don’t forget, there is also speedster Kagiso Rabada in the Protea camp along with all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo.
Against India, probably the South Africans will have an unchanged squad, which means there will be five genuine fast bowling options in their ranks. If I was Faf du Plessis, I would have gone with a four-pace attack against the Indian line-up. However, it is highly unlikely that the hosts will take that gamble.
Meanwhile, one factor which provides the South African seam attack an edge over their Indian counterparts is — collectively they are more experienced than the Shami and Co. The likes of Steyn, Morkel and Philander are an old fox. They know which length to hit right from the start, especially at home.
So, the Indian seamers need to be proactive here and get into the grooves quickly, if they wish to outclass this classy and experienced South African bowling attack at their own backward.