Speed thrills. In cricket, the cautionary notes attached to this rippling kinetic energy is linked to stunned batters facing a steaming fast bowler. In Indian sport with its tropes of oriental magic and surreal aesthetics, the willow game was often linked to wristy batters and wily spinners.
Within these stereotypes, an Indian fast bowler was deemed a rarity. But India always had its fast men right from the days of Amar Singh and Mohammad Nissar. And it continued through Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma to the latest trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj.
To be at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday and witness the havoc wreaked by Bumrah, Siraj and Shami should be deemed a privilege. Welcome to the High Table of supreme fast bowling. In the world of ODIs with its intrinsic bias towards the batters, the bowling unit’s opening attack is all about prising wickets, restricting runs and peddling the odd bouncer.
Seen in this context, what the fast bowlers club did under the Mumbai skies during the World Cup joust, was simply astounding. Credit is also due to the coaching staff, be it the current ones or the previous set with Ravi Shastri and B. Arun being able mentors. Rahul Dravid and Paras Mhambrey are reaping the rewards of the stepping stones placed by their predecessors.
After Bumrah and especially Siraj collectively nailed four Sri Lankan wickets, who does Angelo Mathews and company deal with next? It is Shami! Talk about a relentless attack that offers no respite. No cedar trees and warm shadows, just the surgical incisions meted out by fast bowlers at the top of their craft. There were the West Indians of the past, the bristling Aussies, the fiery Pakistanis and now we have the Indians, with their mean stare, naughty grins and scorching yorkers.
Bumrah has been consistent all through, Shami has made his mark but Siraj was a bit up and down through this championship. However, once he sighted the men from the Emerald Isle, it was as if he had gulped multiple cups of Ceylon tea. There was accuracy, a niggardly line on and around the off-stump, steep bounce and some words were spoken too in his extended follow-through that ended under the batter’s ears.
The stumps were targeted, pads were ruffled, edges were sought and with Bumrah and Shami playing the support cast, Sri Lanka was down for the count. Bumrah’s one for eight, Siraj’s three for 16 and Shami’s five for 18 is the stuff of legend. The trio even outshone Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer, batters who nearly scored a ton each.
In the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, Srinath, Zaheer and Ashish Nehra made a huge impact. Cut to two decades later, their successors are at it again while rival batters are popping pills to quell migraine. Meanwhile, South Africa awaits at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens this Sunday but Rohit Sharma has his arsenal topped with thunder bolts!
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