These are exciting as well as exasperating times as far as India’s pace department is concerned.
Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron are genuinely quick while Mohammed Shami hit the right notes at the World Cup to indicate his growing maturity.
And with Ishant Sharma, for his infuriating inconsistency and tendency to break down, still capable of producing a brilliant spell off and on, the current bunch could well be regarded as India’s best crop of new ball bowlers ever.
Of course, India pacers’ blow hot blow cold approach has let down the team abroad.
In last year’s Lord’s Test, Ishant rattled England with short-pitched stuff to bowl India to a famous win.
It’s a different story that the pace pack lost sting to lose the next three Tests.
In the Australia series, the pacers were so wayward in the Test series that there were concerns whether they could compete in the World Cup, a fear which proved unfounded in the end.
But rival teams can’t afford to dismiss the threat of India’s pacers anymore. They realise the potential, although the national bowling coaches have not really been able to harness it.
Heath Streak at his peak was genuinely quick, and although Zimbabwe didn’t pose a huge threat, he was part of the best team put out by the African nation and has produced sharp spells even on docile Indian tracks.
Streak, the Bangladesh bowling coach, feels India should concentrate on moulding their fast bowlers if they are to get more consistent results abroad.
While the pacers, as they did at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, have played a vital role in ODI success, they have to translate that in Test cricket.
“On paper, there isn’t a lot of difference in talent between the English bowling attack that beat you guys in 2014 and the abilities of Indians,” the former Zimbabwe skipper told HT.
“It’s just that people like James Anderson are highly skilled bowlers who have learnt playing the long form of cricket. They know how to swing the ball, how to set batsmen up,” Streak, who has over 200 wickets in Tests and ODIs despite the few matches that came Zimbabwe’s way at the turn of the century.
His perspective of English pace bowling was gained during his successful stint with Warwickshire after retiring as a Zimbabwe player.
Streak is a fan of the English way of preparing players to different specifications and feels India could do the same.
“The England management mould pacers for specific roles. That’s where India have to evolve. They have to say ‘okay, we have these young guys bowling well in one-day cricket. Now how do we get them to perform consistently in conditions outside India?”
Aaron and Yadav take care of the speed factor. “If you are bowling above 140, then you are going to cause problems, especially if you get the ball in the right areas,” he said.
“Now you have a group of fast bowlers who can compete in conditions outside. And the good thing is a lot of these guys are young. As long as they are managed well, it looks bright for them.”