Australia v India, 1st Test, MCG, 3rd day December 28, 2011

'The best bowling attack I've played with' - Sehwag

India's bowling department has been over-reliant on Zaheer Khan in recent times, but Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav's impressive performances in Melbourne have given the attack a sense of completeness
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At the end of the second day, R Ashwin, the India offspinner, set his bowling colleagues a lofty ambition. He spoke about the readiness of the Indian attack and how they would try to match the eagerness England's bowlers showed during the Ashes in Australia last season. "We saw in the Ashes the England team seemed, through the series, as though they wanted the ball in hand," Ashwin said. "That's the kind of impression a good bowling attack can pose upon an opponent. It's all about readiness and the belief that wickets will keep coming. If a couple of us can get five-wicket hauls early in the series then obviously you will see the effects on our team as well."

It is a good aspiration to have: to want to be constantly enthusiastic to bowl and take wickets. However, the Indian attack, hurt by injuries and lack of consistency over the past year, has had questions asked of the very durability Ashwin asked for. It seemed certain that a time would arrive during this tour when the bowlers would be asked to measure up to Ashwin's aspiration. That it would arrive a little over two hours of play after his statements was slightly unexpected. The Indian batting had collapsed by lunch on the third day, losing eight wickets for 68, and India needed something special from their bowlers. By the end of the day, Ashwin & Co. had the approval of Virender Sehwag. He said: "This is the best Indian bowling attack I have played with."

That's a tall claim, but perhaps Sehwag has seen something. The most striking aspect of this attack - albeit on the evidence of a small sample - has been that they have not been overly reliant on Zaheer Khan. Yes, Zaheer's experience has counted in his final spells on the first and third days, but Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav have been ready, have been quick, and have improved as the game has progressed.

Zaheer's importance is not always a tangible quantity of course; it doesn't always show in five-fors but only in the slump when he is missing. But you get the sense there is something to Yadav and Ishant's games. Usually, when India win Tests abroad - and this is by no means won - there is a sense of happenstance to the composition of the attack. There is a deliberateness about this set of bowlers. Yadav is young, fit and quick, and was punted on at the right time. Ishant has been around for a while, and while he may have gambled by not going for ankle surgery, he has not held anything back in this Test. Unlucky to have not picked up a wicket in the first innings, he bowled consistently in the late 140s in his first spell in the second, and once crossed 152kph.

It is rare for all three quicks of an Indian attack to look like they could take wickets in all of their spells. India desperately needed just that after the collapse in the morning. Helped in part by injudicious shot-making from the Australia batsmen, Yadav burst through the top order, and Zaheer and Ishant were not far behind. The trio showed they had learned from their first-innings mistake of bowling too short, and also from watching how the Australia quicks exploited the conditions.

Then there is Ashwin, who has brought freshness to the spin department. He has not over-reached on a pitch that is not helping spinners, but he hasn't been overly defensive either. He may have been guilty of bowling the odd short ball, but his opposition have acknowledged that he has made it difficult for them through changes of pace, angle and trajectory, and of course the carrom ball against the tail. Ricky Ponting said there was a lot Nathan Lyon, Australia's offspinner, could learn from Ashwin. The way Ashwin bowled over after over, going at well under three an over, allowed the quicks to keep coming back fresh.

The control Ashwin exerted meant Australia had not run away to a big lead by the time Zaheer came back for a final spell on the third day. On cue, he produced two wickets, reversing one away from Ponting, and then dismissing Brad Haddin from around the stumps. Ashwin then showed his effectiveness against the tail, and but for a drop off his bowling India might have been in an even better position by stumps. Zaheer, though, bowled only a four-over spell, feeling his hamstring during the fourth, walking off immediately, and then coming back to the field but not bowling. That was a reminder for Indians fans not to get too far ahead of themselves.

This is a long Australian summer, and anything could happen when it comes to the bowlers' fitness. One of the three fast bowlers might even need to be rested from a Test. In fact the MCG Test itself still has some way to go, but whatever happens here the bowlers can say they have done their job. Well, almost. There are still two wickets to get on the fourth morning.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • StatisticsRocks on December 28, 2011, 23:17 GMT

    Its only one game guys against not so strong batting lineup. Before we start labelling hhtem as the best fast bowling unit in the world lets wait for 10 series.

  • OhhhMattyMatty on December 28, 2011, 21:33 GMT

    England are the world leaders who everyone is trying to copy. But sadly poor immitations will never replicate the great England side we currenty see!

  • MaruthuDelft on December 28, 2011, 19:30 GMT

    Pragyan must play. Everyone is talking about Ashwin; OK; let him play but Pragyan must play; he brings the flight of a genuine spinner and is intelligent; he may not be an intelligent in conversations like Ashwin nevertheless he is very intelligent in his bowling. To save Zahir for the full series and stop Yadav and Ishant going tired Pragyan must replace Ghambir. Ghambir would never be really good against good bowling. Dravid open. Kohli one down.

  • SmellyCat on December 28, 2011, 19:20 GMT

    Zaheer showed his class but somehow gives an impression of an up & down and lacking intensity. What I read though is the problem with his work ethic and I think its good that we're getting better seamers and reducing dependency on Zaheer. Ishant probably needs to learn to bowl little further up consistently and he will be rewarded. Yadav should be encouraged to just go flat out fast..

  • on December 28, 2011, 18:27 GMT

    Well done by Indian bowlers. They have always missed 3rd fast bowler and in this test this is not the case. Hopefully, their efforts result in a win for India.

  • on December 28, 2011, 18:09 GMT

    Good article....But I dont xpect all of these 3 to last throughout the 4 tests because of their tendency to break down at any time.....Thats when a good seamer in the reserve will come into play....The selectors have erred by selecting two military medium bolwers(Vinay and Mithun).....INDIA can select Ashok Dinda , who is currently the second highest wicket taker in Ranjis and has been in terrific form this season picking 5 fors on batting beauties....Whats more important he bowls in the high 130s , low 140 range....and what has been proved enough in recent times you need pace to rattle the oppostion unless you are skilled enough to move the ball expertly which comes only with experience and genuine skill(Zaheer , Pollock etc..)

  • Alexk400 on December 28, 2011, 17:44 GMT

    Good bowling attack will have decent back up. We don't have wicket taking bowlers because BCCI don't spend money on finding Tall well built bowlers.

  • Charindra on December 28, 2011, 17:29 GMT

    I love Sehwag, both for his remarkable batting and honest interviews, but I'm afraid he has got carried away here. Zaheer is a shadow of his former self, Ishant is finding form for the first time since 2008, Yadav is impressive but just starting out, and Ashwin is more of a one day bowler for me. But most importantly, Sehwag has forgotten that this is not the famed Aussie batting line up of the '90s and 2000s. But hey, what do I know! :D

  • on December 28, 2011, 17:26 GMT

    But neither the TV Star Cricket nor cricinfo broadcasting the speed of the balls. Its quiet unfortunate to be kept in the dark :(

  • Alexk400 on December 28, 2011, 16:54 GMT

    Yes it could be if all healthy. India don't win overseas because they don't take w20 wickets. If all 3 pacers healthy , india has as good chance as aussie pacers. So game is even. Now only the vaunted batting line up show their face and take a shot at 250+ lead. great opening stand will do it

  • StatisticsRocks on December 28, 2011, 23:17 GMT

    Its only one game guys against not so strong batting lineup. Before we start labelling hhtem as the best fast bowling unit in the world lets wait for 10 series.

  • OhhhMattyMatty on December 28, 2011, 21:33 GMT

    England are the world leaders who everyone is trying to copy. But sadly poor immitations will never replicate the great England side we currenty see!

  • MaruthuDelft on December 28, 2011, 19:30 GMT

    Pragyan must play. Everyone is talking about Ashwin; OK; let him play but Pragyan must play; he brings the flight of a genuine spinner and is intelligent; he may not be an intelligent in conversations like Ashwin nevertheless he is very intelligent in his bowling. To save Zahir for the full series and stop Yadav and Ishant going tired Pragyan must replace Ghambir. Ghambir would never be really good against good bowling. Dravid open. Kohli one down.

  • SmellyCat on December 28, 2011, 19:20 GMT

    Zaheer showed his class but somehow gives an impression of an up & down and lacking intensity. What I read though is the problem with his work ethic and I think its good that we're getting better seamers and reducing dependency on Zaheer. Ishant probably needs to learn to bowl little further up consistently and he will be rewarded. Yadav should be encouraged to just go flat out fast..

  • on December 28, 2011, 18:27 GMT

    Well done by Indian bowlers. They have always missed 3rd fast bowler and in this test this is not the case. Hopefully, their efforts result in a win for India.

  • on December 28, 2011, 18:09 GMT

    Good article....But I dont xpect all of these 3 to last throughout the 4 tests because of their tendency to break down at any time.....Thats when a good seamer in the reserve will come into play....The selectors have erred by selecting two military medium bolwers(Vinay and Mithun).....INDIA can select Ashok Dinda , who is currently the second highest wicket taker in Ranjis and has been in terrific form this season picking 5 fors on batting beauties....Whats more important he bowls in the high 130s , low 140 range....and what has been proved enough in recent times you need pace to rattle the oppostion unless you are skilled enough to move the ball expertly which comes only with experience and genuine skill(Zaheer , Pollock etc..)

  • Alexk400 on December 28, 2011, 17:44 GMT

    Good bowling attack will have decent back up. We don't have wicket taking bowlers because BCCI don't spend money on finding Tall well built bowlers.

  • Charindra on December 28, 2011, 17:29 GMT

    I love Sehwag, both for his remarkable batting and honest interviews, but I'm afraid he has got carried away here. Zaheer is a shadow of his former self, Ishant is finding form for the first time since 2008, Yadav is impressive but just starting out, and Ashwin is more of a one day bowler for me. But most importantly, Sehwag has forgotten that this is not the famed Aussie batting line up of the '90s and 2000s. But hey, what do I know! :D

  • on December 28, 2011, 17:26 GMT

    But neither the TV Star Cricket nor cricinfo broadcasting the speed of the balls. Its quiet unfortunate to be kept in the dark :(

  • Alexk400 on December 28, 2011, 16:54 GMT

    Yes it could be if all healthy. India don't win overseas because they don't take w20 wickets. If all 3 pacers healthy , india has as good chance as aussie pacers. So game is even. Now only the vaunted batting line up show their face and take a shot at 250+ lead. great opening stand will do it

  • nickydude on December 28, 2011, 16:47 GMT

    Although, it is admirable that India has discovered a gem like Umesh, it is also important that he bags wickets by giving few runs, & does not go like Sreesanth, who started the same way, but started leaking runs by the bucket. If you see the, 20-25 runs sprayed on the legside by Umesh, is the difference, else, this match wud've been confirmed ours by now.

  • on December 28, 2011, 16:44 GMT

    It has been a history of successful teams to have a pair of seamer's one who can generate genuine pace and the other who can just swing the ball and toss it up. May it be the lethal Lee and McGrath combination or the Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis pair. It contributes a lot to the team.

    With this succesful pair of the quicks the next important factor is a good spinner may it be Shane Warne or Saqlain Mushtaq.

    The current Indian team seems to have it all in good proporation and on a good cricket track the results are there to see.

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on December 28, 2011, 16:33 GMT

    Zaheer went off the field by holding his hamstring ( O _ O )? Again???? I missed that!!!! OMG! That's not at all good!!!

  • the_blue_android on December 28, 2011, 16:03 GMT

    Well, Ashwin has been very disappointing. He's been bowling too many short and wide, long hops and balls which hardly spin an inch. Nathan Lyon has spun so much more than Ashwin. He should stop talking and make sure he doesn't end up doing what Bajjim might have done.

  • diehard_pulkit on December 28, 2011, 16:01 GMT

    I disagree, I think Ishant sharma is frustrating me. Players like Varun Aaron and Irfan Pathan should be given chance. I am suprised even though Irfan has done so well in australia he is not pick.

    Rest all look in sync and firing all pistons .... i think inshant sharma needs to really learn to use his height , he behinds too low to deliver the ball..... he has a gift which he is wasting

  • on December 28, 2011, 15:10 GMT

    THis is the New Era of Indian Fast Bowling...Add Aaron to the Mix...i must say things are looking much promising :)

  • Zehere on December 28, 2011, 15:01 GMT

    There is no doubt that with zaheer in the team look altogeher in their aproach. after kumBle the only Bowler zaheer khan who make to us win overseas .i think umesh will also started taking responsiBily.impress with umesh .But ishant is not learning anyting he had got much more natural talent than zaheer& umesh But he doesn't have his own mind. there is no sense of Bowling over 140 to 147kph unless pitch it up right length we can see that out off 6 dilivry he Bowl only 2 or 3bowl to Batsmen this is waste of its own energy. he Bowl very well in some patches But not consistance in his whole spell or match or series .he is almost in a team from since 2007.he doesn't seam to have a great Bowling heart.

  • on December 28, 2011, 15:00 GMT

    If Varun Aaron comes in place of Ishant, then it is a pretty decent attack. Hope the Indian batsmen can apply themselves and get the runs required. It seems a pretty difficult wicket to bat on. Everything hinges on sehwag because he does not care about the type of wicket he is batting on. Should be a pretty interesting day tomorrow.

  • on December 28, 2011, 14:57 GMT

    This is a class pace bowling attack . Clearly showed how much the injuries affected the indian attack in England.

  • ssenthil on December 28, 2011, 14:51 GMT

    After seeing the attacks all over the world, Indian bowling attack is perhaps the best in the world at present :P ...... England, SA and Australian attack can't do well in Sub-continent. India now World class Fast bowlers and Spinners so they can now suit to all kind of Pitches all over the world. England debacle in fact brought something good for India, thus dumping the under-performing ones years after years like H Singh and Sreesanth forever and drafting in Umesh Yadav, Varun Aron and Ashwin to Tests. PK is recovering from his injury and so is Aron. Once they fit, the India attack bench strength also would be great. India famous for producing world class batsman now start to producing fast bowlers as well. Wonderful indeed.

  • ssenthil on December 28, 2011, 14:46 GMT

    erhaps India never managed to post 2 fast bowlers bowling over 145k's for a full over anytime along with a left arm seamer who can swing the ball both ways though Ashwin is not the spinner Sehwag seen best. It must be Kumble. But Overall this bowling attack perhaps is the best in recent times. No idea about before 1990's. If Ishant only correct his line a bit, this Attack would bundle any team in the world twice within 90 overs each Innings.

  • Druva on December 28, 2011, 14:37 GMT

    This is just the first match the combination has come together. Already such a hype! This attack is no way near South Africa' attack.

  • PiyushD on December 28, 2011, 14:27 GMT

    Zaheer hamstring reccurence is not a good sign, currently India is playing it's best bowlers and the backup bowlers in Vinay and Mithun do not give that confidence, it would have been wonderful to have Praveen also here but then ifs are ifs.

  • Bobby_Talyarkhan on December 28, 2011, 14:00 GMT

    Acutely observed as always Sid!

  • KAIRAVA on December 28, 2011, 13:44 GMT

    Umesh Yadav is going to be India's first bowler to be crowned as the World No. 1 bowler in the next couple of years. He has the right temperament, the skill, the stamina, the bowling action, the speed and above all he has a cool head and lets the ball do all the talking. His methods of celebrating the dismissals of opposition batsman are simple and gentleman-like, a la James Anderson, Muttiah Muralitharan and other select breed of top class gentlemen bowlers of this era. Hailing from a humble rural background, he should serve as the source of inspiration and ideal role model (instead of Harbhajan or Sreesanth) for younger generation of aspiring cricketers who should play the gentleman game as it is.

  • on December 28, 2011, 13:42 GMT

    yes the India pacers and Ashwin have shown promise - of being fit, having a plan and executing it to India's advantage. still early days, though. they're famously bad travelers, so let's see how they hold up in all 3 aspects as the tour progresses.

  • spinkingKK on December 28, 2011, 13:39 GMT

    India are playing with their only bowling effective bowling option. The moment, one of the bowlers get injured, the bowling attack will become very weak indeed. That will expose the folly of the selctors in selecting mediocre bowlers as the reseve bowlers. Given that Sreesanth is injured, why can't they select an Irfan Pathan or Ashish Nehra, R.P.Singh or at least a Munaf Patel?

  • on December 28, 2011, 13:31 GMT

    Now look at this all who dont know about the whole new indian bowling line up..I swear it changed from the bad old times....

  • sankar8000 on December 28, 2011, 13:19 GMT

    Umesh rocking with his pace. Ishant touching 152k . Zaheer is always wily with his swing and Ashwin spins with a lot of variety. No wonder Sehwag feels this bowling attack is one of The Best....

  • on December 28, 2011, 13:01 GMT

    Forty years ago when I started watching cricket, Indian quicks were only there to take the shine off the new ball. Twenty-five years ago, with the exception of Kapil Dev, Indian quicks bowled in the low 130 kph range. Now Indian quicks bowl in the high 140-range, a startling improvement when seen against such a backdrop.

  • sameer997 on December 28, 2011, 12:43 GMT

    wayy too early to judge, i however hope they can do this consistently

  • Nayyar.Rasheed on December 28, 2011, 12:37 GMT

    Last year during the same time in the Durban Test, Sreesanth, Ishant, Zaheer and Harbhajan brought this same feeling. And then the England tour happened. Hope this is not the same kind of high.

  • FunkyRaj on December 28, 2011, 12:32 GMT

    These are encouraging signs if you're an Indian supporter. It remains to be seen whether fast bowling is being nurtured in Indian cricket to the extent that it develops into the kind of depth countries like England, Australia, South Africa and not least Pakistan can boast.

  • Aspiring_Alpha on December 28, 2011, 12:28 GMT

    Typically it is our batting that has let us down in overseas matches. The bowlers have usually overachieved and bowled their hearts out and the batsmaen would lose us the game. I never understood how people could say India had a great batting line-up in the 90s when in that team only Tendulkar and Dravid had the technique to play the short ball. Things changed with the Fab 4. The early 2000s India line up was the best I have seen. Better than Sunny, Vishy, Patil, Vengsarkar, Kapil in the 1980s. But looks like our batting is looking at a bleak future after Dravid, VVS and Tendiya. We may well be in unknown territory after these retire. For the first time since the early 1970s (when we had the spin kings), India will have a stronger bowling line up than batting.

  • JhonyBasha on December 28, 2011, 12:23 GMT

    I agree with the Shewag... this is the best bowling team recent time and also the bowling bench seems good.

  • RandyOZ on December 28, 2011, 12:14 GMT

    Yadav and Zaheer were very impressive I have to admit. I see now why the fans are saying the United XI had it easy in England. Don't worry luck might've got them there but they won't be there for long. Yadav, Cummins, Philander, Pattinson. Gotta be the most impressive young bowlers on Earth right now.

  • rahulcricket007 on December 28, 2011, 12:08 GMT

    I WOULD LIKE TO SEE WHAT SEHWAG WILL SAY IF ZAHEER & ISHANT BROKE B/W THE SERIES JUST LIKE ENGLAND TOUR .

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • rahulcricket007 on December 28, 2011, 12:08 GMT

    I WOULD LIKE TO SEE WHAT SEHWAG WILL SAY IF ZAHEER & ISHANT BROKE B/W THE SERIES JUST LIKE ENGLAND TOUR .

  • RandyOZ on December 28, 2011, 12:14 GMT

    Yadav and Zaheer were very impressive I have to admit. I see now why the fans are saying the United XI had it easy in England. Don't worry luck might've got them there but they won't be there for long. Yadav, Cummins, Philander, Pattinson. Gotta be the most impressive young bowlers on Earth right now.

  • JhonyBasha on December 28, 2011, 12:23 GMT

    I agree with the Shewag... this is the best bowling team recent time and also the bowling bench seems good.

  • Aspiring_Alpha on December 28, 2011, 12:28 GMT

    Typically it is our batting that has let us down in overseas matches. The bowlers have usually overachieved and bowled their hearts out and the batsmaen would lose us the game. I never understood how people could say India had a great batting line-up in the 90s when in that team only Tendulkar and Dravid had the technique to play the short ball. Things changed with the Fab 4. The early 2000s India line up was the best I have seen. Better than Sunny, Vishy, Patil, Vengsarkar, Kapil in the 1980s. But looks like our batting is looking at a bleak future after Dravid, VVS and Tendiya. We may well be in unknown territory after these retire. For the first time since the early 1970s (when we had the spin kings), India will have a stronger bowling line up than batting.

  • FunkyRaj on December 28, 2011, 12:32 GMT

    These are encouraging signs if you're an Indian supporter. It remains to be seen whether fast bowling is being nurtured in Indian cricket to the extent that it develops into the kind of depth countries like England, Australia, South Africa and not least Pakistan can boast.

  • Nayyar.Rasheed on December 28, 2011, 12:37 GMT

    Last year during the same time in the Durban Test, Sreesanth, Ishant, Zaheer and Harbhajan brought this same feeling. And then the England tour happened. Hope this is not the same kind of high.

  • sameer997 on December 28, 2011, 12:43 GMT

    wayy too early to judge, i however hope they can do this consistently

  • on December 28, 2011, 13:01 GMT

    Forty years ago when I started watching cricket, Indian quicks were only there to take the shine off the new ball. Twenty-five years ago, with the exception of Kapil Dev, Indian quicks bowled in the low 130 kph range. Now Indian quicks bowl in the high 140-range, a startling improvement when seen against such a backdrop.

  • sankar8000 on December 28, 2011, 13:19 GMT

    Umesh rocking with his pace. Ishant touching 152k . Zaheer is always wily with his swing and Ashwin spins with a lot of variety. No wonder Sehwag feels this bowling attack is one of The Best....

  • on December 28, 2011, 13:31 GMT

    Now look at this all who dont know about the whole new indian bowling line up..I swear it changed from the bad old times....