With 13 Tests and two limited-overs series, this season is all the more challenging for Team India. And with little gap for rest and recovery, the fast bowlers face the heaviest workload.
That is why the Indian camp would have been encouraged by the performance of their pace attack in the first ODI against New Zealand. In this long season, they will be relying on their second line of attack to deliver and share the workload with first-choice bowlers.
In his debut ODI against New Zealand at Dharamsala, Hardik Pandya displayed the right qualities to be seen as a genuine prospect.
Then, after a harrowing experience in the last one-day series he played in, against Australia, Umesh Yadav calmed the nerves about his ability to adjust to the demands of limited-overs cricket. The duo, along with another consistent effort by Jasprit Bumrah, reduced the game to a no-contest.
A sharp pace arsenal can be maintained only by managing the spearheads well. Over the seasons, it has been an area where Indian cricket has struggled. Even until recently, it was a tough situation. Mohammed Shami was out for a long period due to injury and Bhuvneshwar Kumar is nursing a niggle. Ishant Sharma is the most fragile, his career marred by frequent breakdowns, mostly due to a vulnerable ankle.
Genuine strike bowlers have come at a premium in Indian cricket. Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and the list ends.
The value of these men can be gauged by what happened once Zaheer broke down on the first day of the 2011 series in England. With their chief tormentor out, England capitalised on home advantage, dishing out seam-friendly wickets. The result: a 4-0 rout.
It was a harsh lesson, and hence the focus on having a strong talent pool. Apart from Bumrah and Pandya, India have discovered Barinder Sran can cope with the rigours of international cricket. Dhawal Kulkarni and Mohit Sharma have also proved effective in limited-overs cricket.
In the BCCI contracts list, there are 13 pace bowlers. Apart from the names discussed, the others include Varun Aaron, Stuart Binny, Ishwar Pandey, Vinay Kumar, Pankaj Singh and Rishi Dhawan. They can be used judiciously to allow Shami, Buvneshwar and Ishant to fire on all cylinders.
“The Indian team has got variety now. Shami, Bhuvneshwar, Yadav and Ishant for Test cricket and similarly a specialised attack for one-day games. Pandya is a very good addition, he can be a handy all-rounder,” Kapil Dev’s former new-ball partner, Karsan Ghavri, said.
Ghavri, who has regularly been with the National Cricket Academy as a fast bowling coach, said: “Pandya is a very committed cricketer, he doesn’t need to go for pace. If he focusses on bowling in the right areas, he can be deceptive. He doesn’t need to try too many things. If he bowls 10 overs, he is bound to get a couple of wickets.”
On the bigger pool, he said: “Right from under-16 to under-19 to 23 to Ranji Trophy and then T20s, ODIs and Tests, the BCCI’s programme for junior cricket is so great, the supply line is not going to end for the next 10 years.”