The main reason for Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri's belief that India can be a dominant side overseas is their bowling attack, which took 20 wickets in each of the three Tests on the tour of South Africa in January. The fast bowlers combined to take 50 of those 60 wickets, and this, more than anything, gives India hope that they can compete against England as well when the five-match Test series begins next week. Former India fast bowler Ashish Nehra, who played 17 Tests, including two in England, and now works as a bowling coach, runs the rule over India's quick men.
Ishant Sharma - "Needs to pitch it up"
Strengths The strongest point is his physical fitness. That's how he has managed to play for so long. Although he does not take too many wickets, as a captain I would want him in my team because he can bowl long spells. This summer, the way the weather is in England, the wickets are not swinging much. He can give you 22-23 overs a day, and his long spells will help the other two [fast] bowlers. He is a hit-the-deck bowler. Although he might come on one-change, he is experienced. He has played seven Tests in England. For him to be fit will be very important for India.
Lengths He is a back-of-a-length bowler. People might feel that he does not bowl the ideal length for Test cricket, but I'm sure he can alter his length a little bit. I am not asking him to change his bowling or do something different - just a little bit of alteration will work for him. He puts pressure, he doesn't give runs. He has become more accurate in the last year and a half.
Length he needs in England Especially against someone like Alastair Cook, the length should be up, because he will bowl across him. Cook is very good at cutting and pulling, so if Ishant can bowl up to him and keep him quiet, it will be really good on any kind of wicket.
Area he needs to focus on Consistency. I know he is a workhorse and the captain will look to him for long spells, but he has to be careful not to burn out. He should be able to tell the captain [if he is] being overused. Also, he needs to focus on not giving runs. If he is not picking up wickets, no problem. He might bowl 10-4-15-0, but he is still doing his job for the team, so he should focus on what he knows.
Area he needs to work on Length. I completely understand that he has that length, which is really short. You can easily say, "Oh, this is my length." But he should be able to alter that length a little bit, according to the pitch, according to the batsman. He knows he needs to bowl up.
Mohammed Shami - "There is something in his hand"
Strengths He is a very skilful bowler. He has pace, especially when he has good rhythm. He might go ten to 12 overs without a wicket and suddenly in 18 overs he might take five wickets. He is that kind of a bowler. In one spell of five overs, he can pick up three wickets even when the ball is not doing anything. His hand is really straight. Even if the ball is not swinging, he can land it on the seam regularly and the ball does something. There is something in his hand.
Length he bowls Generally, he bowls up. He is not a [Jasprit] Bumrah or an Ishant Sharma - hit-the-deck bowlers. He can reverse the ball. In England this summer, the ball might reverse, especially at Lord's and The Oval. At the Headingley ODI, Mark Wood was reversing on a dry wicket. Shami's hand is so straight that he can use the reverse swing well, even with the red Dukes ball. If the Dukes is reversing, it is more lethal than a Kookaburra. If he is fit, in that second spell or the late spells around tea, Shami can be really handy. But the key thing is fitness.
Length he needs in England If he is bowling with the new ball, if it shapes, it is fine. Even if it is not shaping, he should look to bowl up, because then he can trouble guys like Cook and Joe Root. He needs to bowl up. If he is hit for a four, it should be past long-on or long-off rather than square leg or point. Guys like him, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar need to bowl up - that is their strength.
In Test cricket, it does not matter how much variety you have. You might be able to bowl a good back-of-the-hand slower one or a good yorker, but those things are secondary. About 85 to 90% of the time you have to bowl the good-length delivery - your stock delivery. It goes out, it comes in, you bowl 145kph, you bowl 130kph - that is all secondary. So Shami needs to focus on a good, top-of-the-stump kind of length, which has been his strength.
Area he needs to focus on Fitness. He has had a bad knee. He has not played a lot of cricket recently, including in the IPL. The captain also has to look after Shami. He is not like Ishant, who can give you an eight- or nine-over spell. Shami can be given six to seven overs in the first spell and then a short burst of four to five overs, where he bowls all out.
Area he needs to work on If he is fit, he will definitely do well. He might take a Test match to come back into that rhythm, but he needs to bowl more and more. The last Test he played was in South Africa six months back. He should look to bowl long spells in the practice sessions.
Umesh Yadav - "Don't give freebies"
Strengths When it comes to fitness and athleticism, Umesh is the No. 1 in this team. He is also the best fielder among the Indian fast bowlers. He has not played Test cricket in England, but he has done well in Australia. Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar] is injured; Bumrah is coming back from an injury; Shami has not played much cricket; Ishant has played county cricket and Tests [against South Africa and Afghanistan]. Umesh played all the games for RCB in the IPL and he played all the T20Is and two ODIs [on the limited-overs leg of the England tour], so he is one bowler who has been playing constant cricket. There will be responsibility on him.
Pace-wise he will be up. He also has the length. He likes to bowl up. If his outswing gets going, he is a 140-plus bowler.
Length he bowls Fuller.
Length he needs in England When the conditions are really hot, Umesh will be handy. He can bowl good reverse. Even in India, when he played 17 to 18 Test matches non-stop, he was constantly picking up two to three wickets. Whenever there is some assistance from the pitch, he should look to bowl up and try to swing the ball, which he was trying to do with the Kookaburra in the T20Is and ODIs in England.
Area he needs to focus on Umesh will go for runs, more than Bhuvneshwar or Ishant. He is like Waqar Younis, who used to pick up wickets but go for runs. He does not need to try too many things. He is a hit-the-deck bowler, bowls up, swings the ball. He has a skiddy bouncer, which he does not use much, but he should look to bowl it at the right time.
Area he needs to work on His line. Even in 50-overs cricket, he bowls the odd ball down leg - that is a freebie, a four. You don't want to do that in Tests. In Test cricket, 90% of the time you will focus on bowling the stock delivery. Umesh looks to bowl up, but he needs to do everything [within] the stumps. He should not bowl too many deliveries that a batsman can flick to leg or cut to off.
Mentally he needs to be strong, even if he goes for runs. He needs that confidence from the coach and captain. If he needs a deep square leg and deep point in the second session, so be it, but Umesh should look to take wickets.
Jasprit Bumrah - "Don't be reluctant with the yorker"
Strengths His X-factor is his action. If you haven't played him much, it is not easy to pick him. He has pace and the ball comes a lot quicker than you think. Out of the lot of Indian fast bowlers he has the best yorker, the most difficult ball to bowl. He also has a very good slower delivery. If you are playing on a wicket that is dry and the ball is old and reversing, Bumrah will be really handy.
Length he bowls Back of a length, but the good thing is, he is a very quick learner. He is not somebody who bowls only into the right-hander or takes it away from the left-hander. He can bowl - I will not say outswing, but he can bowl a straight delivery at will. That is his strength. He is not a one-dimensional bowler. He can bowl a slower one, too.
Length he needs in England He needs to make adjustments to bowl fuller.
Area he needs to focus on He is a bit reluctant to bowl the bouncer. Maybe he is underestimating it. He should look to use the bouncer as a surprise weapon. He has good pace and a different action, so the bouncer will work for him.
Area he needs to work on It will be very important to get into a rhythm as soon as possible. Bumrah should stick to the strengths he utilises in limited-overs cricket. If the ball is reversing in the second or third session, he should not be shy to bowl a yorker. He can have a deep square leg. In Test cricket, you can keep a defensive field but bowl aggressively. At times you can bowl defensively with an attacking field. You can have three slips and a gully but bowl wide outside off stump. Or you might keep a deep square leg or a deep fine leg, but that does not mean you are bowling defensively. If you miss the yorker and the batsman flicks it, it is still only a single.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar - "Keep him sharp, bowl short spells"
Strengths Everybody knows he's a good swing bowler. More than that, he has a good head on his shoulders. He knows what he is doing. He is quicker than you think.
Length he bowls He bowls the Test-match length - good length - and he has good control. If the ball is not swinging and the batsman is hitting fours through mid-off and the covers, Bhuvneshwar can alter the length and bring it back. He is very sharp that way.
Length he needs to bowl in England He does not need to do anything different.
Area he needs to work on The team management should make sure he does not bowl too long a spell. Any bowler will get tired if he bowls a ten-over spell. I have seen him bowl nine- to ten-over spells at Lord's [in 2014]. As long as he is fresh, there is zip in his bowling.
Shardul Thakur - "Focus on swinging the ball"
Strengths He is stocky guy, but he is a skiddy bowler. He can bowl 138 to 140kph.
Length he bowls He generally pitches it up. That is what I saw him doing in the Ranji Trophy. That will be the perfect length in England.
Length he needs in England If you need the length altered in dry conditions, he should be able to do that.
Area he needs to focus on He should understand very quickly that this is not white-ball cricket, where he is a one-change bowler. Even in the Leeds ODI, he was one-change. He relies on the knuckleball, slower ball, slower-ball bouncer. In Test cricket he should understand that all that will not work.
Area he needs to work on He is a good outswing bowler. He should focus on swinging the ball from a good area. But he should be mentally ready for Test cricket. He should try and get into the groove as soon as possible. He has already played one four-day game - for India A, which would have given him an idea of what to expect.
The interview was conducted in the City Sports Bar at The Grange, St Paul's in London