The real protagonists
The Lords Test between India and England proved to be a tipping point of the process that was in the making for the past few years. Indian pacers put on a stunning performance collaboratively as a unit. Mohammad Siraj and Mohammad Shami delivered bodyline attacks at a staggering pace — forcing the English batsmen to play for outside edges. Bumrah had been on fire with his unconventional bowling style — hitting the deck really hard along with his unpredictable variation of pace and length. The pacer would skid the ball into stumps to which batsmen had no answers. The formidable Indian pace attack has now come to be recognised more clearly than ever before on the global stage — the use of adjectives for it is explicit in meaning and undisputed in manner. An Indian kid from the 90s or the 2000s would have had a baseless sense of revenge that the fast bowlers of their team revert back in the same tone and tenor the Australians, Pakistanis, New Zealanders, South Africans and Caribbeans did. This has become possible now with emerging talents who, with the strength of their qualities and capabilities, have claimed the global limelight. This, of course, is backed by the team's leadership which is playing its part fairly well. But there is a need to distinctly figure out the real roots of our strength in pace attack — is it to be seen as a trickle-down of the spirit and resolve of Virat Kohli's leadership, or should it be seen as the culmination of efforts of the fresh talents from the bottom? One answer could be — both. But we still need to go beyond that to take a crystal-clear stand because the degree of concreteness in the answer may define the extent of success in the future. A team leader can channelise and optimise the potentials of particular players but the potential itself is defined by the qualities of the player. To shape gold into an extremely delicate ornament, the gold has to be 'gold'. And the process of delivering that delicacy has to first identify the gold as 'gold'. In order to maintain the consistency of the pace attack, it is pertinent to dissociate its image as a reflection of a particular leader — so that it becomes a unit in itself that could be worked upon, improved and made excellent. Looking at it as an extended trickle of leadership is the process that may lead to a situation where their strength is taken for granted. Overemphasising the effect of individual influence hides some extremely important minute details. Behind the glitter of, say for example, Jasprit Bumrah, lies the commendable effort that the player puts into training and fitness purposes. The essence of the argument is to put more focus on the qualities and skills of Indian pacers in public commentaries and write-ups. Such sort of communication and emphasis would set an agenda towards streamlining the process of making and retaining pacers — rather than creating bubbles of sensation. The beauty of the Australian, West Indies, Pakistani pace attack has been the consistency. Australians, in particular, are a thing to learn from. The way they effectively use their bench strength and maintain the fitness of their fast bowlers is worth emulating. It is an indisputable fact that the quality of the Indian pace attack is not second to any other at this point in time. But apart from quality, the greater issue for India has been the consistency of fast bowlers. We do have the memories of individual pacers coming in with a good pace and skills that would only dip down in the coming years, the reason being fitness issues. The graph should only grow upwards from here. The minutes of the pacers' strengths should be observed and backed with delicate training and fitness activities. The Indian cricket team has before itself a golden opportunity that has to be availed with the right focus. The standard that we have achieved goes beyond the previous individual finds. The real advantage of the Indian pace attack is the bench strength. The added advantage is the blend of experienced and new cricketers comprising names like Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Navdeep Saini, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur etc. Bhuvneshwar Kumar might not fit into the league of lethal pacers but his disciplined and mindful bowling is a great asset for the team. The current combination of pacers gives an assured space to Bhuvneshwar Kumar for recovery. With his coming back into the team after complete recovery, we will have the required variation in our pace attack and it will become more unplayable. This combination has come to us after a very long wait. The Indian cricket team registered its presence more assertively in the past decade and a half but that has largely come through its outstanding batting line-up and characteristic spin attack — pacers shone occasionally with individual performances. Now the team has come into balance with an equally matching bunch of fit and fast pacers along with the skilful spinners. The team is very much complete in itself given that its fielding has also become world-class. This completeness needs to be maintained in the long run by setting up the right priorities.