Bengaluru, October 23: Visakhapatnam: Ist Test, 2nd innings: Faf du Plessis was quite comfortable leaving the ball outside the off-stump. On the fifth ball of the 22nd over too, Du Plessis judged the length early as any good international batsman does and shouldered his arms, expecting the ball to sail past the off-stump. But Mohammed Shami managed to bring the ball back to uproot the off-stump. Du Plessis wore that classic deer in front of headlight look before stuttering off.
Ranchi: 3rd Test, Ist innings: Quinton de Kock came out to open towards the fag end of the second day. But on the final ball of the second over, Umesh Yadav cramped him for room with a snorter, De Kock as accomplished a batsman as he is, could only fend the ball to Wriddhiman Saha behind the stumps.
Du Plessis and De Kock are batsmen with enough international exposure and experience in tackling fast bowling. But in Visakhapatnam and Ranchi, places you would least expect quick men to have an impact, they were made to look silly. In fact, the Indian pacers outclassed their SA counterparts - Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje and Vernon Philander who together picked up 10 wickets across three Tests.
The three India pacers - Shami, Umesh and Ishant - grabbed 26 wickets from three Tests, just two wickets behind R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who were expected to lead India's attack as they did back in 2015-16. But three years down the line, the Indian pacers showed that they have grown in stature and are now no longer a mere sidekicks and in the record-setting 11 home series victories, they, including Bhuvneshwar Kumar, have bagged 169 wickets in 31 Tests at an average of 27.88 and at strike rate of 56.7.
INDIAN PACERS AT HOME DURING 11-MATCH WINNING STREAK
UMESH YADAV: 20 MATCHES: 61 WICKETS; AVG: 26.42; SR: 52.5
MOHD. SHAMI: 13 MATCHES: 48 WICKETS; AVG: 23.72; SR: 46.3
ISHANT SHARMA: 17 MATCHES: 31 WICKETS; AVG: 36.67; SR: 81.1
BHUVNESHWAR: 11 MATCHES: 27 WICKETS; AVG: 26.22; SR: 52.10
The stats tell us why India have a firm grip on the No 1 position in the ICC Test rankings for a while now and with 240 points Virat Kohli's men are a fair distance away from other teams in the ICC World Test Championships points table too.
From their efforts in the series against South Africa, it is evident that India have progressed a long way in their stated ambition of taking the pitch factor away from equations. India now have a bowling unit that can excel in any given conditions - a long-standing dream of Indian cricket followers.
Once Jasprit Bumrah was ruled out of the series with an injury, there were fears of Indian pace attack losing its edge, but Shami and Umesh ensured that it wasn't the case. It's a fitting tribute to them that not even once the team had to go through that 'Oh! what if Bumrah was there' phase.
Shami was exceptional throughout the series. He has this upright wrist position making the ball landing more often on the seam and he unerringly attacks the stumps. It means Shami generally bowls full, not forgetting here that he has a wicked bouncer too and varies his length, and once the ball begins to reverse then he is an all the more fearsome prospect. No wonder, the pacer has 94 wickets out of 166 through bowled and leg before in his career.
Shami has taken 67 wickets from 18 Tests since 2018 at average of 24.62 and when he flicks his second innings switch the average dwindles to 22.58 and at home it is an eye-popping 17.34.
Umesh started off his career with a lot of promise but he took time to realise his potential and has the tendency to oscillate between sublime and ordinary in the span of a few overs. But he seemed to have instilled some consistency in to his performance recently.
His last six Test innings at home yielded good results - 6 /88 and 4/45 against the West Indies at Hyderabad in 2018; 3/37 and 3/22 against South Africa at Pune and 3/40 and 2/35 at Ranchi against the Proteas.
Kohli was chuffed about how Shami and Umesh have performed in the series against SA. "It's all about the mindset. They run in to bowl, they ask - even if the ball is doing a little bit - after the spinners have bowled, they immediately want the ball back, so they want to make an impact, they want to make breakthroughs, and I think it's about the positive mindset they've created for themselves," said Kohli.
"The focus was on spin, but the pacers have done the damage. We've become a multi-dimensional team now, and it's not one thing that you need to counter when you're playing against us," he added. And his words will have more weight to them once Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar return from their respective injuries.
It's a cultural shift for us too. From recounting the heroics of West Indian, Australian and Pakistan fast bowlers of the yore, we can now have a few anecdotes of our own.