While T-20 is usually considered to be a batsman’s game, young Indian fast bowlers have been making a name for themselves with some stellar performances at this year’s IPL.
At the beginning of IPL 2014, fans and pundits predicted a duopoly of Sri Lankan pacer Lasith Malinga and West Indian spinner Sunil Narine over the Purple Cap, the reward for being the highest wicket-taker in an IPL season. But as the tournament nears its business end, it is clear that this season has seen the rise of a phenomenon - that of young Indian pace bowlers coming into their own against the best opposition in the world. And if this IPL season is anything to go by, the future of Indian pace bowling looks to be in capable hands.
The next generation of Indian fast bowlers have demonstrated their skills quite brilliantly. May it be knocking over top order batsmen to pile on pressure on the opposition, cleaning up tail-enders at the death, or slowing the scoring rate in the middle overs; young Indian quicks have shown this season that they are ready to step their game up to a whole new level.
Consider this - four of the top six wicket-takers this season are Indian pacers. These four pacers have accounted for a combined 71 dismissals between them. With an average age of just 23 years, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma and Varun Aaron have exhibited traits which give some assurance with regard to fast bowling in India in the years to come. In a country where emphasis on nurturing quality young fast bowlers has gained steam over the past few years, the 2014 IPL has certainly provided a glimpse into the future.
Bhuvi has cemented his place in the national team over the past year and a half. Ever since his debut in a T20I against Pakistan in 2012 (where he finished with figures of 4-0-3-9), he has shown a lot of promise. He isn’t the quickest bowler, but what he lacks in speed, he makes up for it with swing. This season, bowling alongside one of the world’s best - South African Dale Steyn, Bhuvi seems to have evolved in his bowling - particularly in the death overs. The young lad from Uttar Pradesh has outshone Steyn on most occasions this season, which is no small achievement. No wonder then, that with 20 wickets, he currently holds the Purple Cap.
After the ICC World T-20 in Bangladesh, which preceded the IPL, not many knew what to make of young Mohit Sharma. After playing 12 games and taking 18 wickets for the Chennai Super Kings this year, Mohit has made a name for himself on the international stage. Despite the likes of R. Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja and Ben Hilfenhaus being in the squad, Mohit has managed to stand out and deliver the goods for his team. And though he could do with a slightly lower economy rate, we are sure to see more of Mohit Sharma in the coming years.
Perhaps the greatest find at this year’s tournament has been Sandeep Sharma. However, Sandy isn’t a rookie, despite being only 21 years old. Along with having represented India at two Under-19 World Cups (2010 and 2012), Sandeep was the leading wicket-taker of the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy season. He has carried over his domestic form to the IPL, and with 17 scalps from 10 games, has played a key role in the rise of Kings XI Punjab this season. The fact that most of his victims have been top-three batsmen make his exploits all the more impressive.
Jharkhand quickie Varun Aaron has been a mixed bag for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. He can work up some serious pace, without question. Consistently touching (and crossing) the 140 kmph mark, Aaron has taken 16 wickets in IPL 2014. His problem has been in the middle overs and also at the death, where he has gone for quite a few runs in recent matches. Still, he remains a key figure on the bowling front for his side.
The IPL has provided new prospects for Indian cricket. While some players have burst onto the scene, others have reaffirmed themselves. One thing is certain though - with this new breed of Indian pacers, there is much to work with and one can expect great things in the future from this fantastic quartet.