India have a big, bad, beautiful bowling machine



If you’ve experienced cricket from the stands, you’ll instantly understand why batting commands massive imagination.

It’s a surprise. Both visual and auditory. The sound of a meaty strike, rich, crisp and velvety all at once, cut though the wild clamor. As the ball leaves the bat, races across the turf or flies through the air, your eyes trace the path. Sometimes the results are instantly obvious, and sometimes it’s a tease as the fields chase, but the whole thing is a treat, a vivid, immersive experience. And you see it much more than its bowling equivalent, a dismissal or an unplayable delivery.

Take the apogee of batting: the century. You watch it take shape and grow, you keep the runs ticking off the scoreboard, you are part of the anticipation and the countdown, your awareness grows and your vision sharpens when a batter enters the 90s. When the magic number is finally achieved, it is an exhilarating communal experience.

Wickets, as we all know, win matches but runs are the popular currency of the game.

Partly this is because bowling is a more obscure industry. Decisive events in bowling are over in milliseconds and the intricacies of bowling are more difficult to follow on the cricket field than in batting. A wicket fall is a huge event, but it happens suddenly. Only the most seasoned observers, with a refined sense of the game, could relate it to what came before: the set-up, the slow drawing of batters to their doom, and the variety and finesse of the craft.

There is hardly any cheating about strokeplay, but bowling is often about conundrum. And when the best batters are often rendered unintelligible by them, what chance do the rest of us have of understanding?

So what can we do? We will go into bat. Unless, of course, we can’t take our eyes off the bowling.

Kudos, then, to India’s bowlers for awakening our senses to the basic art of cricket, making this World Cup so riotous, joyous and memorable about bowling. How ridiculously good they were, what joy they brought and what a privilege it was to see them.

Not that India’s batsmen were lax. Rohit Sharma shines at the top, papering boundaries with violent grace. Virat Kohli is chasing and marshaling the middle. KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer either played a steady hand or stepped things up, but the truth is, India’s batting rarely had to stretch or sweat: they Not asked to chase more than 300And maybe they didn’t feel the compulsion to push to 400 Time to bat first.

The numbers are ridiculous. In a World Cup that produced the fastest powerplay score in the history of the tournament (5.42 per over). Jasprit Bumrah 2.73 in that phase, which makes him about 30% more miserable than the next best to bowl at least 60 balls in the Powerplay; 80% of his deliveries produced points, which batters failed to score on four out of every five deliveries.

is equally incredible Mohammed ShamiIts wicket-gobbling feat. He is now fourth with 16 In the list of wicket takers And he got there after missing half of India’s games in the tournament. His strike rate, 9.75, is comfortably the best in this World Cup.

even Mohammad Siraj, who is relatively inconsistent among India’s top-line fast bowlers, compared to the best of the rest. His ten wickets of the tournament at 31.7 reflect the return of Australia’s best fast bowler Josh Hazlewood. Only Shami, Marco Jansen and Dilshan Madushanka have taken more powerplay wickets than Siraj at a better average.

Not only do India’s spinners have the best combined economy rate in the tournament, they have He also took the highest wickets at the best average. It’s a tremendous stranglehold in the middle overs, where battles are supposed to be won in this World Cup.

Kuldeep YadavThe kind of bowling that forced him to hit more boundaries than others, hitting one every 19 balls in the middle overs, the best in the category, and Ravindra Jadeja A boundary off 17.9 balls is just behind. There are only 12 sixes in 779 balls between them. South Africa’s main spinner Keshav Maharaj scored 12 runs off 414 balls alone, as did New Zealand’s Mitchell Santner on 436 balls.

The sum of it is that the opposition batsmen have come down so spectacularly relentlessly against the bowling machine, they have had no relief, no release, no escape and consequently no hope.

Pakistan Did manage to get an early boundary against Siraj, but his comeback was two crucial top-order wickets. New Zealand Launched a calculated attack against Kuldeep, hitting him for four sixes in his first five overs, which was 48 runs. In his last five, Kuldeep grabbed two pace-setting wickets and scored 25 runs as New Zealand, at one point looking good for 350, were restricted to an under-par 273.

As India’s bowlers continued to set a comfortable chase for their batsmen in the first half of the tournament, questions remained as to how they would react to the dewy conditions and less target pressure if the batting failed. The first time it was asked was answered emphatically, When they scored 229 runs against England Lucknow’s wet outfield with such ferocity and guts that it set the tone for the next two chases.

Batting disasters in the face of tall targets are often the result of being forced to go hard from the start. But no one points to the damaging hangover of T20-style misadventures, let alone that it has been quite the opposite. The Indian bowlers tested their batting technique against the top-order batsmen. Sri Lanka was in the dust Even before they start their chase. And South Africa Did not dare to play the shot. India had three individual scores higher than Sri Lanka’s total. South Africa, the most formidable hitting group of the tournament, fell nearly 20 runs short of Kohli’s individual score and nearly ten runs short of what India scored in the powerplay.

In the first half of the tournament, India possessed the most versatile, disciplined and powerful bowling attack, capable of holding and taking wickets at all stages of the game. Ironically, it was an election change that was forced an injury Which turned them into a relentless machine. Forced to forego the batting all-rounder insurance for a specialist bowler in the XI due to Hardik Pandya’s absence, with Shami’s inclusion India have acquired a danger that has given rise to a frightening inevitability: a fight for survival for the opposition batsmen, ending in swift destruction.

Swing, seam, zip, fizz, turn, stumps flying, batters nailing the crease, balls flying into the cordon, Indian bowling was a sight at the World Cup, and they left us with a treasure trove of memories – what bowling over batting is all about: getting out through great balls. Batters’ memories are written deeper than great shots.

There, Jadeja terrorized Steven Smith with a magic ball from the left-arm spinner. India’s first game, and repeated the dose to Temba Bavuma in last weekend’s game. Bumrah’s twin strikes against Pakistan: an off-cutter that left Mohammad Rizwan unconvinced, and a reverse-swinger that left Shadab Khan unguarded. Bumrah’s first-ball corker to Pathum Nissanka, angling from wide of the crease, sets up the batsman to protect his pads, but then moves to take the off-stump. Siraj Dimuth is doing the opposite of Karunaratne, swinging the ball instead of shaping it into the corner. Shami is without any such guile but is simply unplayable to Angelo Mathews – full, swinging and turning further inside. Kuldeep to Jos Buttler, spins wide outside off and goes back horribly to take the stumps. And then of course, Ben Stokes’ breakaway sequence to Shamir.

Magic upon magic, match after match, the Indian bowlers were so far ahead that if you were so inclined, it would make you believe the most ludicrous conspiracy theory: that the ICC and BCCI were hiding a different batch of balls for their opponents.

But the truth is, we got bowling perfection from them together.

Bowling is a box office that worships batting and a format designed to cast bowlers in supporting roles. What not to celebrate?

Statistics input by Siva Jayaraman



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