The number of high quality Indian fast bowlers on view has been one of the remarkable features of this IPL season. All ten teams have one, if not more, fast bowlers of excellent potential to grab attention. While Umran Malik, the 20 year old from Jammu who plays for Sunrisers Hyderabad, made headlines in the first half of the tournament with his 150-kmph thunderbolts, several other young pace bowlers – all in their early and mid-20s — have made their mark in the second half.
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Foremost is 23-year-old left-armer Mohsin Khan who plays for Lucknow Super Giants. Hailing from Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh, the strong, well-built youngster wasn’t included in the first few matches played by LSG. But later he got a break, and he hasn’t looked back ever since. In just 6 matches, Mohsin has already accounted for 10 wickets. The strike and economy rates are impressive, and he has been skipper KL Rahul’s go-to bowler at any stage of the innings. Apart from angling the ball away from right-handers, he also brings the ball back in sharply. Having benefited from a brief mentorship under India’s pace ace Mohamed Shami, Mohsin’s control and skills have been highly rated even by former master opening batsman Sunil Gavaskar.
Two other left-arm fast bowlers to have made an impact are Mukesh Chaudhury (Chennai Super Kings) and Yash Dayal (Gujarat Titans). They’ve picked up wickets regularly, belying their inexperience and showing a good propensity to learn quickly. As the season progressed, they’ve become better and better. CSK, without spearhead Deepak Chahar, have turned to Chudhury for wickets in the Powerplay and hasn’t been disappointed.
Kuldeep Sen (Rajasthan Royals) who bowls right arm, has been fantastic at the start of an innings and in the end overs, showing excellent temperament apart from considerable skills. These freshers have joined the likes of Avesh Khan (Lucknow Super Giants), Khaleel Ahmed (Delhi Capitals) Prasidh Krishna (Rajasthan Royals), Chetan Sakariya (Delhi Capitals), Arshdeep Singh (Punjab Kings) who have been on the selector’s radar for a couple of seasons and have also earned their India cap in white-ball cricket.
Interestingly, these fast bowlers are coming from all over the country, and not restricted to just one particular zone. Umran is from J & K, Mohsin and Yash Dayal are from UP, Avesh Khan and Kuldeep Sen from MP, Khaleel Ahmed from Rajasthan. Mukesh Chaudhury was born in Rajasthan, but earned his stripes in Pune. Chetan Sakariya is from Saurashtra and Prasidha Krishna from Karnataka. All this reflects how a culture of fast bowling is getting a national footprint.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are other young Indian fast bowlers – largely in the 19-23 age group, picked up by talent scouts of franchises to groom for the future. The important aspect is that most of these youngsters are quick, not medium pace. Genuine swing bowlers are always valuable in the game, but as is the international trend, the greater demand from coaches is for pace which is being met in India. Most of these youngsters are regularly clocking 140 kmph or more, which makes them great wonderful assets for the teams.
This surge of fast bowlers suggests a revolution inspired by the IPL. India has traditionally been a land of excellent spinners. Pace bowlers of wicket-taking ability like Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan have been far and few in between. While fast bowlers did increase post the Kapil Dev era, the numbers were nowhere near what exists today.
The IPL has been a big incentive for youngsters to take up fast bowling, says former India captain and chief coach Ravi Shastri, who has been monitoring this growth with interest over the past 15 years. “The league offers an opportunity to make an instant impact. Though a domestic tournament, it has a wide international following. “Any player doing well in the league attracts not just attention, but livelihood,’’ says Shastri.
Originally there were 8 teams in the IPL, now there are 10 with the introduction of Lucknow Super Giants and Gujarat Titans. Each team is seeking 6-7 fast bowlers in the squad, preferably 3-4 homegrown, has created a huge demand which in turn is attracting budding cricketers to take up this role.
Shastri also sees the IPL as a great learning ground for youngsters since they rub shoulders with the best in the business. “”The opportunity to learn skills from the likes of Dale Steyn, Pat Cummins, Kagiso Rabada etc is making the learning curve of Indian bowlers go upwards quicker than ever before’’, he says. Add to this the intense competition among these young bowlers themselves to get quicker recognition which means India’s pace resources will get richer every year.
Of course, not every young fast bowler who succeeds in the IPL will make the cut for the Indian team. Actualising potential and then sustaining form, requires constant earning and upgrading skills. This is the only way for long-term survival at the highest level.
But Look at the options available to the selectors today. In the frontline are Jasprit Bumrah, Mohamed Shami, Mohamed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and T Natarajan. All of them holding their own or going great guns. Add to these names of the 8-9 youngsters mentioned earlier. The transformation has been extraordinary. Once starved for even medium-pacers, Indian cricket is overflowing with genuine fast bowlers.
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