Quiz question: Which Indian bowler has the poorest economy rate in a single Test match, among those who have bowled at least 25 overs in a match?
Answer: Umesh Yadav. In the Sydney Test of 2015, Umesh leaked 182 runs off 30 overs; he remains the only Indian bowler to go at more than six an over in a Test match (with a 25-over qualification). In fact, there have only been five other such instances in Test history.
When Umesh first arrived in international cricket, his easy action and the pace he generated with it were impressive, but he was a scattergun, liberally spraying the ball all over the place and giving away easy runs. In his first 15 Tests, he bowled in 28 innings, and in 18 of them his economy rate equalled or exceeded four runs an over. His strike rate of 53.6 balls per wicket was excellent, but his high economy rate meant he conceded almost 39 runs per wicket. Along with Varun Aaron, he was among the few Indians bowlers who regularly clocked speeds of 140kph or more, but struggled with his radar.
Over the last 15 months, though, Umesh has got his act together. The accuracy has improved tremendously, and he has achieved it without sacrificing speed. While still clocking speeds of around 140kph, he has consistently been on target in his last 15 Tests: he has exceeded four runs an over only once in his last 30 innings. The maiden overs tally has jumped up too, from 54 to 95. The strike rate isn't as good, but that is partly due to the catches dropped off his bowling this season.
Through the 2016-17 home season, Umesh has consistently troubled opposition batsmen, though the wickets have only come in this ongoing series against Australia. He has 12 in three Tests at 25. Against England, he only had eight wickets in five Tests at 58, but he bowled much better than those numbers suggest.
The control stats for Umesh this home season further illustrate how good he has been with the ball. Control stats measure a batsman's comfort levels against a bowler - when a batsman edges, mistimes, or is beaten by a bowler, he is deemed to be not in control of that delivery. Against Umesh, batsmen were not in control for 19.78% of the deliveries they faced. Against other Indian seamers this season, that percentage has been slightly lower. Umesh, though, has averaged 40 this season, while Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have averaged in the mid-20s.
* Not-in-control percentage is the % of deliveries which the batmen edged, mistimed, or were beaten
Over the course of a long home season, Umesh has already bowled 330.5 overs, with one Test match still to go. At the moment he is seventh on the all-time list of most overs bowled by an Indian fast bowler in Tests in a season, but he needs to bowl only 4.3 more overs to jump up to fifth spot. The top two in this list were both from the same season - 1979-80, when Australia and Pakistan played six-Test series in India. Kapil Dev's 472 overs is way ahead of any other seamer, while Karsan Ghavri is next with 408.2. Venkatesh Prasad bowled 408.1 in 1996-97, when India played six Tests home and away against South Africa, and then toured the West Indies for five Tests. Kapil's 406.3 in 1982-83 - when India played six Tests in Pakistan and five in the West Indies - is in fourth place.
Umesh won't come near the 400-over mark this season, but he is sure to take fifth place. Remarkably, he has sustained his pace through the season despite bowling so many overs and playing 11 Tests. In Australia's second innings in Ranchi - when they batted 100 overs to save the Test - Umesh clocked an average speed of more than 85mph, and a top speed of nearly 90. That average was a marginal dip on what he clocked in the earlier innings but was still nearly as high as Ishant's average of 86mph; Ishant has played only five Tests to Umesh's 11 this season.
Over the course of this series, there has been no discernible drop in pace for Umesh, which speaks volumes for his fitness and augurs well for next season, when India play plenty of overseas Tests. Umesh has so far played 21 of his 30 Tests in Asia, but over the next 18 months that imbalance should correct significantly. If Umesh, Ishant, Shami and Bhuvneshwar are all fully fit, India's pace attack could well be a strong force in overseas conditions.