India’s pace pack looks good, but has it missed a leggie?

Right hand wrist spinners have accounted for 654 wickets at 32.59 in South Africa as against left hand unorthodox, who have taken 134 at 28.40; the only tweakers in the Indian team are Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

Legbreak bowler Yuzvendra Chahal (left) could have come handy in the Test series against South Africa   -  AKHILESH KUMAR


The national selectors, in consultation with the team management, have chosen Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah and all-rounder in Hardik Pandya as part of the pace-pack for the three-Test series in South Africa to be played at Cape Town, Centurion and Johannesburg.

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The 29-year-old Ishant leads the group with 226 wickets in 79 Test matches, and has played five Test matches in South Africa. He also flaunts a dozen wickets under his belt, but at an average of 54.17.

However, he seemed to have got his length right in the recent three Test series against Sri Lanka.

Yadav has not played in South Africa in a Test match, but he is on the threshold of a 100th Test wicket. He needs to dismiss one more batsman. Shami was part of the attack in South Africa four years ago, that also had Zaheer Khan and Ishant.

Remembering veterans

Yadav and Kumar (53 wickets from 19 Tests) have featured in ODIs before in South Africa and would not be totally new to conditions there, but Bumrah and Pandya would be curious to discover South Africa.

From left: Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad warming up at the Supersport Park, Centurion in 2002.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES


If the entire group looks at the Indian fast bowlers’ display in the previous six tours to South Africa in last 25 years, they would be encouraged and hopeful of learning on the job. They may look at Javagal Srinath’s exploits and even pick his brains before the start of the first Test in Cape Town on January 5. In his three visits, starting from the 1992-93 season, Srinath took 43 wickets. He and his Karnataka ally in Venkatesh Prasad were outstanding on the 1996-97 tour taking 35 wickets. Indian fast bowlers have taken 170 wickets in 17 Test matches as against 81 by the spinners. What’s significant is that India’s Srinath, Zaheer Khan (30 wickets) and S. Sreesanth (27 wickets) feature in the top 13 wicket takers among overseas fast medium bowlers.\

Stat attack

Fast bowlers have generally ruled the roost in the 222 Test matches played in South Africa, but the density and texture of the pitch there has also given scope for crafty slow spinners to make an impact. After its return to mainstream cricket, the calling cards of fast bowlers — Makahya Ntini (249 wickets), Dale Steyn (241), Shaun Pollock (235), Allan Donald (177), Jacques Kallis (165), Morne Morkel (122) and Vernon Philander (96) appear predominantly in the achievements chart.

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They are followed by Hugh ‘Toey’ Tayfield, regarded as one among the legendary off spinners who plied his trade between 1949 and 1958; he took 92 of his 170 Test wickets on home soil.

In recent times though for South Africa, Kagiso Rabada has been in top form with a tally of 61 wickets on home soil at 18.10.

Interestingly, the overseas cricketer who has taken the maximum number of scalps in the Southern Hemisphere country is Shane Warne with 61 wickets at 24.31 from 12 Tests. England’s right hand fast medium bowler Syd Barnes, who played only against Australia and South Africa, took 49 wickets in four Test matches in the 1913-14 season. Third on the list is India’s Anil Kumble with 45, and the fourth is the Australian leg spinner Clarrie Grimmet with 44. They are followed by Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, 41, Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, 35, England’s Stuart Broad 31 and India’s Khan, 30.

The leggie trick

The overseas spinners have accounted for 453 wickets at a very expensive 39.15, although Warne managed his 61 wickets at 24.31 and Muralitharan his 35 at 26.03. The South African spinners, post 1992, have taken 259 wickets at 38.87, for an aggregate of 712 at 39.05.

The two spinners in the Indian team are finger spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja; they have played just one Test match each there. But have India missed the trick in somehow finding a place for leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal. Right hand wrist spinners have accounted for 654 wickets at 32.59 in South Africa as against left hand unorthodox, who have taken 134 at 28.40.

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