Indian bowlers have their say

Indian bowlers have their say

Cricket Champions Trophy : The form of pacers augurs well for Kohli's team ahead of the final clash

Indian bowlers have their say

 India has now made excellence at ICC events a habit. On Sunday, they will be playing in their second straight Champions Trophy final and if you include their 2011 World Cup triumph and a semifinal appearance in the quadrennial showpiece two years ago in Australia, it is indeed a proud achievement.

A major contributor to their success is the fantastic rise of the bowlers, who for many years were considered the weakling as India struggled to compete in alien conditions. Their collective improvement and the country's ability to keep churning out top-class batsmen frequently has now resulted in India assuming a ruthless edge — something that was seen in the all-conquering Australian sides from the mid 1990s till the end of the last decade.

In the 2013 Champions Trophy, riding on the brilliance of Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin, the Indians picked up 45 wickets in five matches as they clinched the title undefeated. Although they lost in the semifinals of the 2015 World Cup in Australia, the bowlers dished out a phenomenal performance. In the six group matches and the quarterfinals, they bowled out the opposition, fast bowler Mohammed Shami leading the way with a rich haul of 17 wickets.

Considering it was the highest scoring World Cup with 28 team-totals in excess of 300, including two over 400, the show by the bowling unit to not concede over 6 runs per over until the defeat to Australia (328/7) in the semifinal was exceptional.

Even at this Champions Trophy where pitches have been doled out keeping only the batsmen in mind, the Indian bowlers, barring the defeat against Sri Lanka where they couldn't defend 321, have been on the money. They’ve scalped 33 wickets in total with all of them pitching in equally.

A key feature of the bowling attack is their ability to adapt to conditions and situations. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, entrusted with the fast bowling duties and smarting after the battering at the hands of Sri Lanka, knew the Oval pitch didn't offer much and stuck to the middle and leg stump line against Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla. They cramped the South African duo, offered no freebies whatsoever, and eventually forced them into committing errors by increasing the pressure.

The Indians also excel in bowling defensive lines, a huge feature in the country’s successful run in Tests during the last home season. When their attacking ploy of bowling fuller lines fails and results in plenty of runs, they just revert to the basics. Skipper Kohli sets a defensive field and the bowlers just stick to the basics, focused more on choking the run flow.

Six or seven parsimonious overs in the middle phase then forces the rivals into a mistake and the Indians just feast on them like hungry predators. In this tournament itself, the Indians have taken 19 wickets between overs 11 and 40, the most for any team. Majority of the games are won and lost during this crucial phase and this is where India have shown the verve to turn things in their way.

Former India bowling coach Bharath Arun felt the pacers have become a lot more accurate now and that’s given India a special edge. “Bhuvneshwar, Bumrah and Umesh (Yadav) have become very accurate. They keep bowling the middle and off-stump line and the length has also been top notch. They have been consistent as well. Even in the death overs, they are able to mix the slower balls and yorkers well. Those two deliveries are very difficult to execute but they’ve been able to do it brilliantly.

“Also, the bowling oozes quality. Ashwin and Jadeja are the two best spinners in the world. They’ve played in all conditions and are in a zone. They know how to tackle foreign conditions. The bench strength is also too good. Imagine Umesh and Mohammed Shami warming the benches. It’s a great time for Indian cricket.”

Another great outing against Pakistan in the final could be the icing on the cake for their tireless efforts.