We are, today, in 2019, at a point not many imagined would be possible. It feels like a fairytale – but it can be said that the current Indian bowling attack is the best in the world. For all conditions. Pace and spin both. And the bench-strength is not too bad either – strike Indian bowlers like Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar haven’t even played for a few months. Not often has an Indian captain had to be more worried about his batting line-up than taking 20 wickets in a Test match. As a result, India is currently on a record streak in Test cricket, and haven’t been too shabby in limited-over formats either.
The decade started with master Zaheer Khan in full swing, with Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra and even Munaf Patel still going strong. It has ended with names who are entirely capable of touching those heights. Here, then, are the Indian bowlers who made it possible over a period of time.
The five best Indian bowlers of the decade are:
It feels like the tall, lanky fast bowler has been around for ages. And he has, making his debut as a teenager way back in 2007. But Sharma is only 31 years old, and from being “the unluckiest bowler in world cricket” restricted to the nostalgia of memorable but fleeting spells of hostility, Ishant is now the skillful wicket-taker many hopes he would be early on. Like Zaheer, he has aged like fine wine and seems to be at the peak of his Test bowling powers right now. He has averaged 20 and less in the last two years of international bowling – and is finally making good on the promise he has always shown. Bowling coach Bharat Arun has turned him into a weapon who is capable of swinging the ball both ways. It’s not easy to be a bowler in Indian conditions, but Sharma is enduring proof of how patience can reap great dividends.
It’s hard to imagine the spunky all-rounder making the list of individual skills. But Jadeja, who has improved his batting immensely in the last one year, is also a very handy test bowler – especially in home conditions. He has over 200 wickets in less than 50 Test matches and has been dropped from the team a lot more than the other bowlers. But he has always come back with zest and an ability to wear batsmen down with his nagging lengths and lines, playing a tough containing bowler so that the others can rest and cash in. Jadeja has the numbers to back himself and is now a safe bet for an all-rounder spot with the injuries to Hardik Pandya.
Dale Steyn recently called him the best bowler in world cricket on current form. And he is. Shami has endured a troubled phase in Indian cricket since his debut in 2013, but he is probably the best old-ball and second-innings bowler in world cricket, irrespective of mood and form. He is only now making the headlines for his fast, skiddy bowling in flat conditions, but the truth is he has been around for years – in and out, injured and not injured, caught in domestic controversies or not. Only now has he realized his true worth, and he is peaking in style, proving to be equal to his more famous partner (Bumrah) over a period of time. The “senior bowler” is quite a handful.
The man has been a revelation, and is the reason Indian bowling is currently a “thing” today. He has captured global attention with his terrific and young bowling career – and is yet to play a home test. But his effect is permanent after his debut in South African conditions, with experts waging that he could end up as India’s greatest ever pace bowler if he remains free of injuries. Bumrah has 5-wicket hauls in every country he’s played in already, and is a threat across formats, especially in ODI cricket where batsmen just cannot score of him in the slog overs. He is here to stay.
Ashwin has been India’s greatest spinner of the decade, not only taking the mantle from Kumble and Harbhajan but making it his own. He has been treated unfairly, given his home record and struggles in overseas conditions (where all bowlers struggle), but has always hit back with an ability to learn, adapt and experiment. He is a smart bowler, hungry for knowledge and innovations, and though he isn’t in Team India’s modern-day limited-overs plans anymore, he is India’s premier Test spinner, despite the ascent of others like Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. His record is phenomenal, with over 350 wickets in record-breaking circumstances. If he is given a fair run in Test cricket for the next few years, he will come very close to breaking Anil Kumble’s record.
Special Mentions: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav
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