These are glory days for Indian pace bowling. The sight of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami running in and tormenting the batsmen is one for eternity. This pace pack hunts down batters with ruthless efficiency. The execution of plans is clinical. As India’s eyes a historic maiden Test series win on South African soil, the focus will be on its rampaging pacemen. India now has plenty of gunpowder. It can blow away line-ups. As for pace predators, Bumrah and Shami are a study, in contrast, compounding batsmen’s woes.
Bumrah is tall, has a unique high-arm action. His load-up is so much away from the body that it is incredible his arm is stretched fully and is straight and high as he delivers the ball. The bounce he gets is natural. And for a long-lever bowler, he has a deceptively, whippy, quick-arm action that generates speed. His victims pick his action a fraction late; by then the damage is done. In the Centurion Test, brushing away an ankle niggle, Bumrah showcased his full repertoire. He had castled Rassie van der Dussen with a delivery that came in sharply from outside off, and also took the ball away sharply from the off-stump.
And he had the yorker ready — bowling incisive yorkers is a lot about understanding your release point — for night-watchman Keshav Maharaj. The intelligent Bumrah has compelling pace variations, alters the angles. The manner in which he trapped a battling Dean Elgar leg-before on the final day of the first Test is a case in point. The role of India’s previous bowling coach Bharat Arun in Bumrah’s development has been significant. Returning to the land where he made his Test debut in 2018. Bumrah has 106 wickets from 25 Tests at 22.33 (strike rate 50.5). In 2021, Bumrah had 30 scalps from nine Tests at 26.53 (SR 61.7).
Shami’s methods are different. Firstly, he is much shorter than Bumrah and his arm is not as high at the point of release. If Bumrah’s bounce is steepling, Shami is a skiddy customer. Shami’s seam position is exemplary and his ability to seam the ball both ways from an off-stump line makes him dangerous. With Shami, you get speed, precision, and two-way movement. Once he finds his rhythm, he can be a handful. He can reverse-swing the ball capably, too. Not for nothing does he have 203 wickets from 55 Tests at 27.00 (SR 49.2). He finished 2021 with 23 scalps from five Tests at 22.47 (SR 43.4).
Both Bumrah and Shami can be a distinct threat to the southpaws as well, adeptly switching angles. And both are accurate with their length and line. They can also mix up their length to disrupt batsmen’s footwork. The lively Mohammed Siraj has a beautiful away-swinger and a potent in-dipper. He is a capable support seamer with 36 wickets from 11 Tests at 27.94 (SR 54.8). And Shardul Thakur (16 wickets, five Tests, at 23.75, SR 41.17) can provide crucial breakthroughs with bounce and subtle movement. And to think that Ishant Sharma (311 Test wickets) and Umesh Yadav (156 scalps) are sitting out. These are truly glory days for Indian pace bowling.
India won on their last visit to Johannesburg in 2018, a memorable effort on a difficult wicket which captain Virat Kohli believes paved the way for their recent success abroad, including series wins in Australia and a 2-1 lead in the incomplete series in England. “It’s a top start for us,” Kohli said. “It’s always a difficult place to play against South Africa. We got so much confidence out of Johannesburg last time. It’s a ground we love playing at.” India won the first Test of the series after a solid first day with the bat – with opener KL Rahul scoring a century – and another impressive display by their pace attack.