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Stats Analysis

Is India's bowling attack the best ever at a World Cup?

They have certainly staked their claim through numbers to be one of the very best fielded by any team at the ODI World Cup

Shiva Jayaraman
Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami have been almost unplayable at this World Cup  •  Associated Press

Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami have been almost unplayable at this World Cup  •  Associated Press

India owe their aura of invincibility in this World Cup to their bowlers. In a series where 350 has been breached 11 times, they are one of the only two teams to not conceded a 300-plus total. India have bowled out teams under 200 in five out of eight matches. Two of those totals have been under 100. Sure, their batters have done their bit by averaging six runs higher than any other side, but then it's been a World Cup true to its times and the sport itself: odds stacked more in favour of the batter than the bowler. And India's bowlers have put in performances that beat those odds like few before them.
Ahead of the field
In a World Cup where bowlers have taken a wicket every 34.39 runs on an average and conceded runs at 5.73 an over, India bowlers have averaged 19.02 at an economy of 4.40. That's how far ahead of the field India have been with the ball. The second-best bowling team in terms of average in this World Cup have been South Africa. Their bowlers have taken 72 wickets at an average of 26.01. India's 75 wickets have come cheaper by almost 7 runs a pop. Among teams that have taken at least 50 wickets in any of the previous 12 World Cups, no team has outperformed the second-best side in a series by such a big margin. Australia's bowling attack in 2003 was the previous best in these terms. Their bowlers took 96 wickets at an average of 18.33 in that series, at 5.23 runs a wicket lower than India's, who took 82 wickets at 23.56.
Similarly, India 's economy of 4.40 runs an over is the best in this World Cup. India have conceded 0.86 runs an over less than Afghanistan, the second-placed team. Among teams that have sent down at least 300 overs in any World Cup series, no team has been so far better than the next best as India have been in this World Cup.
Exceptional quality, in numbers
Mohammed Shami's inclusion in the playing XI has added more venom to India's bowling attack. In the four matches he's played he has picked up 16 wickets at a staggering average of 7.00. Jasprit Bumrah has 15 wickets at 15.53, and Ravindra Jadeja has 14 at 17.35. These bowlers have three of the four best bowling averages for anyone to take at least ten wickets in this World Cup.
Only one team has had three of their bowlers rank in the top four in this manner at any stage in the World Cups before. New Zealand had Daniel Vettori, Trent Boult and Tim Southee in the top four in terms of bowling averages after the match against Afghanistan in the 2015 World Cup.
At this stage, the bowling attack that India have is one of the two most incisive any team has had at any stage in the World Cups. And it shows through in India's last-four matches: their bowlers have taken 39 wickets at an average of 13.43 and a strike rate of 20.2. India have conceded 3.97 runs an over, while they themselves have scored at more than six an over off the oppositions' bowlers.
Best in all phases
Bumrah has gone for a measly 3.65 runs an over in the series. He has been even more miserly in the first ten overs, giving away runs at a rate of just 2.73 runs per over. No bowler to bowl more than two overs in the powerplays in this World Cup has a better economy. With him tightening the noose around the opposition's neck, India have been able to pick up wickets early and cheaply. India's 18 wickets in the Powerplay are the just one short of South Africa's 19 - the highest in these overs by any team. However, South Africa's bowlers average 25.15 to India's 18.11. India's economy is also by far the best among teams in the first-ten overs.
The middle overs (from 11th to the 40th) is when India's spinners have taken over from their fast bowlers. Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav have taken 11 and 10 wickets at an average of 20.54 and 25.20 respectively in these overs. Among bowlers to send down at least 90 deliveries in the middle overs, Jadeja's and Kuldeep's economy rank No. 1 and 3 respectively. Overall, India's economy in these overs is the best among teams. They have also taken the most wickets in this phase of the innings, and at a far better average than any other teams to boot.
India's bowlers haven't had too much to do in the last-ten overs, but here too their stats are among the best. Their 18 wickets are second only to Pakistan's 21 at death, but those wickets have come at an average 12.72 runs - over three runs less than Pakistan's, who are the next best. India are the only team to boast of an economy of under six an over at the death in this World Cup.
Well-rounded attack, unprecedently so
India's pacers have taken 48 wickets at an average of 18.31, a strike-rate of 23.04, and an economy of 4.76. These are the best average, strike-rate and economy for any team's pace battery in this World Cup. Similarly, their spinners top in all three metrics with 27 wickets at an average of 20.29, a strike-rate of 31.03 and an economy of 3.92.
With a cut-off of 25 wickets each for pace and spin, no team in the history of the World Cups has had both their pace and spin attacks boast of the best average, the best economy and the best strike-rate in the series like India have in this World Cup so far.
This India bowling attack could lay claim to being the most lethal and complete ever fielded by any team at the ODI World Cup.

Shiva Jayaraman is a senior stats analyst at ESPNcricinfo @shiva_cricinfo