In a year when India’s formidable trio of Kohli, Rahane and Pujara have all struggled with the bat, it was the bowlers who helped India script memorable wins in foreign conditions in Test cricket.
They sealed their first victory at the Oval in 50 years and conquered MCG, Gabba and Lords on their way to two consecutive series victories in Australia and England.
For a long time, India have been a side dependent on spinners to pick up wickets. Although this helped them in home conditions conducive to spin, they had to struggle to pick wickets away from home in pace friendly conditions.
And yet, in recent years, it has been their pacers who have come to the party in ensuring famous wins in foreign conditions.
The turnaround for the pacers started when Kohli got the captaincy in 2014. One of Kohli’s aims as captain was to win tests away from home.
He established the notion in the dressing room that the team needs to be able to take 20 wickets in a test match to have a chance to win the game.
Pacers had to be able to get breakthroughs if they were to pick up 20 wickets in SENA countries- South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia.
The current crop of pacers for India include Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur and Mohammad Siraj.
Ishant is the senior-most pacer in the team. He can hit the pads of right-handers with sharp, incoming deliveries and generate bounce and swing that can trouble the batsmen.
Bumrah can mount pressure on the batsman with continuous dot balls that help bowlers at the other end to reap the rewards. His unorthodox action and natural in-swinger can leave batsmen dumbfounded.
Shami maintains the right lines and lengths and can reverse the old ball. Shardul Thakur is a quality swing bowler with good out-swingers in his arsenal. Umesh can hit the deck hard with pace and use the reverse swing to good effect. Siraj brings high levels of energy to the game. His strength lies in maintaining consistent line and length.
Their individual skills make the Indian attack good. But it's their ability to work together and complement each other that makes this bowling unit stand out.
India previously used to have a star pacer leading the line-- Kapil Dev or Javagal Srinath in the 90s and Zaheer Khan in the 2000s. Contemporary pacers played a secondary role with these players.
The situation is different now as all pacers in the playing XI are equally adept at picking up wickets. It gives Virat a lot of options to bring in one effective bowler after another, instead of relying on one pacer which was the case with his predecessors.
Kohli deserves his fair share of credit for putting his trust in his seamers since the start of his reign. Even in Indian conditions, he is not afraid to bring on his pacers to pick up wickets.
India’s current pace attack gives them the ability to pick up 20 wickets in a test regardless of the pitch they play in. This makes them the best touring side in the game.
It’s a no-brainer that they have the highest number of away test wins since the start of last decade. Their pace bowling strength will be crucial in the coming T20 World Cup too, as the batting seems a bit shaky yet.