ROHIT SANKAR | 15 OCTOBER, 2018
Deconstructing India’s Test Dominance At Home
India’s seamers pivotal
Since the beginning of 2013, India have lost just one Test match at home, winning 22 out of the 29 played. The supreme domination, one almost unforeseen in the history of cricket, has been the outcome of a stupendous batting line-up and an even more daunting spin attack. But to state that these two have been the only factors behind India’s home record would be a mistake.
The faster bowlers, who are more often than not restricted to less than 10-15 overs in an innings in Tests in India, have been pivotal to India’s growth too. Since 2013, India’s seamers have picked up 149 out of the 525 wickets - 28.38% - India have taken at home in Test matches, a substantial portion considering the kind of surfaces meted out.
Among Asian countries, India's seamers have the best average at home in Tests in this time period - 28.98.
Roll back to 2010, since when India's fast bowlers have 229 out of the 780 Test wickets at home and the numbers are glaring. The seamers average 31.78/wicket in India, second only to South Africa. In terms of bowling strike rate in India, fast bowlers from home top the list trumping the likes of South Africa, Australia and England who boast of power packed fast bowling line-ups.
Mohammad Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have been strike forces in India picking up a wicket every eighth over on an average. In matches India win, Shami has been a huge influence - picking up a wicket every seventh over on an average and taking a wicket for every 21st run conceded, stupendous numbers when considering the pitches in India.
Indian seamers have also managed to grab early breakthroughs in Tests at home. On 54 out of 86 times at home since 2010, India’s fast bowlers have picked up a wicket in the first 10 overs of a Test innings. The early breakthroughs have in fact aided the spinners to settle into a rhythm against middle-order batsmen right at the onset.
In 13 out of the 16 home series’ since 2010, India's fast bowlers boast of a better bowling average than their opposition counterparts. Make no mistake, these numbers have come against strong opposition - Australia, South Africa, England and New Zealand.
They have not only matches the spinners in terms of impact but also given India a huge advantage, mostly gone unnoticed, early on in a home Test. A major factor behind the promising show of fast bowlers had been Virat Kohli under whom the seamers are a better influence than under MS Dhoni statistically.
Kohli has been vehement in his backing of fast bowlers, even at home, that it has contributed to telling performances by the seamers in abroad Tests.
“We don’t play only spinners, we play fast bowlers as well. We understand their contribution is also important,” Kohli had said right at the onset of his stint as skipper.
That kind of positivity has ribbed on to his quicker bowlers whom he has backed through thick and thin. Since his captaincy debut, Kohli has blooded just 8 fast bowlers in Tests which might seem a tad too low. But scout through the names - Shami, Ishant, Aaron, Binny, Umesh, Bhuvi, Hardik and recently Bumrah - you realise that just two of them, namely Aaron and Binny, aren't considered for selection anymore.
The closely knit unit has been a huge factor behind India’s promising show at home. The fast bowlers now have more confidence, better support and are thriving like never before. Genuine pace has also been a factor behind the seamer's rise and instead of curbing them, Kohli and Shastri have openly stated that they love pacers who go full tilt.
The faster bowlers averaged 36.65 under Dhoni, picking up 466 wickets. The corresponding numbers for Kohli are much more impressive. Kohli's quicker men have picked up 301 wickets at an average of 30.01. They have also been mighty impressive at home, averaging 31.23 as against 32.98 under Dhoni.
Kohli has also been strongly in favour of a five-bowler strategy which means more often than not 2-3 seamers get to play even at home. Include Hardik Pandya and Stuart Binny and Kohli's fetish for seam bowling all-rounders is pretty evident. What this has done is give the quicker men enough time to influence the Test match without being under pressure to just restrict the scoring rate and back the spinners.
With soaring numbers and performances like Umesh Yadav's six-fer at Hyderabad against the Windies, India’s seamers are much more than merely making up numbers in the Test eleven at home.