There was a time when Pakistan would have a factory of fast bowlers. India were deemed a batting nation and rightly so. Even though the revered Kapil Dev passed on the pace-bowling torch to Javagal Srinath & Co, it was Pakistan that continued to burst with speed riches.
Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, S Sreesanth and RP Singh gave visions of India being a formidable pace-bowling nation before Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Mohammed Siraj became the kind of speed merchants that could be coroneted as the nation’s best.
Incidentally, Pakistan’s pace stocks have plummeted even for a while. Naseem Shah’s absence in the ongoing World Cup left a void that India’s neighbours couldn’t fill. The fiercely quick but directionless Haris Rauf was profligate and Shaheen Afridi, not too long ago anointed the best on the circuit, failed to make the incisions with the new ball.
Pakistan leaked runs like generous Christmas presents – their early exit in the World Cup came as no surprise.
An editorial in The Print sums up their plight. “The Pakistani pace has declined — in fact, it has never reached its original lethality after the bottle top incidents and greater ICC scrutiny of ball tampering, never mind the frequent celebrations, especially in the English media, over the rise of some new prodigy: from Mohammad Amir to Shaheen Shah Afridi. The Australians are more than adequate in that department, while South Africa and England are reconstructing. Both the talent and the depth in this department are key factors in reaching the top, and staying there so often and for so long,” a part of the editorial reads.
Further, The Print editorial opines on India’s fast-bowling riches: “World cricket’s pecking order has changed greatly since then, and so dramatically that in this edition, for the first time, the West Indies failed even to qualify, while Afghanistan made waves and the Netherlands made an appearance too, returning with one big upset (South Africa) to their name. The other big shift is in what always was the greatest denominator of power in world cricket: fast bowling. It is here that India have made the biggest improvement.”
Analysing the health of Indian cricket, it notes that in Tests India was No. 1 in 2009 and have held the position in the game’s premier format seven times, “…with these periods at the top lasting 70 months, or almost six years.”
The writer pointed out, “Of these 70 months, 49 fall between January 2016 and January 2022. Australia pushed India to number two from January 2022 to May 2023, and then India climbed back up. India are the only team in a long time to beat the Aussies in four consecutive series — the last four. Two series each home and away.”