Indian cricket today is blessed with a battery of quality fast bowlers who are all match winners in their own right. Jasprit Bumrah is widely recognised as one of the best in the world across formats, while Mohammed Shami has been a revelation for Virat Kohli and his team over the past couple of years. Ishant Sharma’s record in Test cricket in the past two years has been impeccable and there is a growing list of young pacemen who are knocking on the doors of the selectors regularly.
So just how did India, traditionally recognised for being a spin powerhouse, suddenly turn into a pace repository. Some might credit captain Virat Kohli for this change and the BCCI’s behind the scenes ground work for nurturing talent, but former West Indies paceman Ian Bishop believes India needs to thank medium pacers from the previous generations for paving the path for this change.
“Let’s remember that this group of bowlers did not emanate right now. The foundation was laid – if you go back to Kapil (Dev) and down the line, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Sreesanth,” Bishop said in an interview with ‘ESPNCricinfo’.
Bishop, who is well known for being an erudite TV pundit, also credit Kohli’s passion for building a pace bowling unit which could help India win matches outside the subcontinent.
“Now it’s been built on with a captain who likes fast bowlers, who believes in them. But also the fact that you’ve found a generational talent in Jasprit Bumrah. Generational because he plays all formats of the game very well. And (Mohd.) Shami has taken his game to another level. Ishant (Sharma) has also gone up another level,” he added.
The 52-year-old, who took 161 wickets in 43 Tests between 1989 and 1998, said he couldn’t have predicted that India’s fast bowlers would come to the Caribbean and do to the West Indians what they did to others so many decades ago.
“So credit to Bharath Arun, the bowling coach, and the administrators and captains. I couldn’t see this much (improvement), but I thought there was a great deal of promise in having guys who could bowl close to, or over, 90mph,” he said. He, however, refused to compare the Indian unit to the fearsome West Indians of the past.
“Well, they (Indians) have been performing that well that the comparisons are going to come. I would want to stay away from it, because I don’t know how you measure it. “When people talk about (Michael) Holding and (Joel) Garner and (Malcolm) Marshall and (Colin) Croft and (Andy) Roberts – who bowled together for so many years – how do you compare with that?” he asked.
Talking about the upcoming West Indies tour of India, Bishop said that beating India in India could be a difficult prospect for a young Windies side.
“Well, you always have a chance of winning. (But) How many people come to India and beat India? It’s a cauldron. My expectation and hope is for them (West Indies) to win – but if they don’t, I’m not going to be put off. “This is what I want people in the Caribbean particularly to understand: India are a dominant force in the world game. West Indies can’t go from winning one World Cup game to beating a team that got to the semi-finals of that World Cup with assurance.
“The fans will want to see victory, but what I’m saying is, maybe this Indian tour is a bridge too soon. If it doesn’t happen, all is not lost.” He said West Indies’ limited overs tour of India will serve as a good preparation for next year’s T20 World Cup.
(With PTI inputs)