Fitter, faster, leaner
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India's new pace battery has tremendous potential, but will they be backed enough by their captain and team management to power home the advantage?
The pace-bowling drought appears to be over and the future looks bright. This is one silver lining amid uncertainty as India struggles to cope with transition.
Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda and Shami Ahmed formed the four-pronged pace attack in the ODI series against Pakistan and England, and though India has tasted mixed results—losing against the rivals across the border and winning against England—the seamers have come out with flying colours. "They have bowled well in all conditions," Mahendra Singh Dhoni said during the series against England. It was a big praise from someone who is always guarded in his assessment.
Kumar is the find of the season. If the debut was sparkling—a three-wicket haul in his first T20 International against Pakistan—he has built on his start. Kumar doesn't have pace. In fact, at 77mph, it is very difficult to rattle any top-class batsman unless the bowler has the guile. Kumar's strength is his ability to move the ball both ways and hit the right area. He had been doing this for Uttar Pradesh since his first-class debut at Eden Gardens five years ago. Maybe the selectors were a little late in spotting him.
Shami, too, has the ability to swing the ball. At times he can hit the bat pretty hard as well. With a very deceptive bouncer in his repertoire, the Bengal bowler is a complete package, though he needs to work harder to achieve perfection. Coming in as Ashok Dinda's replacement, the Bengal player has handled the pressure well.
And then there is Ishant Sharma—the bowler who refuses to grow. With his talent and experience of more than five years in international cricket, by now, he should have become India's number one. But 137 wickets in 47 Tests at 38.00 and 75 scalps in 54 ODIs show that he has been inconsistent. He also has a tendency to break down, but the upside is that at 24, he is still young. And when he finds his rhythm, as was the case in the newly-built stadium in Ranchi and hard and bouncy Mohali, he can be quite a handful in all formats.
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