Virtually every Indian cricket fan of the 1990s was envious of Pakistan’s pace attack. The ability of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and a spinner (Mushtaq Ahmed or Saqlain Mushtaq) to turn matches on the head in foreign conditions had us in awe as we kept waiting for those elusive away wins.
Two decades down the line, it’s the Indian pace attack that is the envy of the cricket world.
On Monday, India’s win against England raised visions of a famous, and almost identical, Pakistan win at Lord’s 25 years ago which paved the way for Akram’s boys to win the series 2-0.
England — with Mike Atherton, Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe and Graeme Hick among others — were looking to save the Test on a barren Lord’s pitch and had lost only one wicket going into the second session of the final day, much like Oval on Monday. And then it was over to Waqar Younis and leggie Mushtaq, bowling round the wicket and in the rough, to decimate England.
India did exactly the same.
On a dry summer day, when England were solely focused on countering the new ball, India were preparing the red cherry to reverse as it was getting old.
“We wanted the ball to get old, we took care of it, and once it started reversing Bumrah came and told me, ‘Give it to me’,” Kohli said during after the match.
England were completely caught off guard by the reverse that was not there on the first four days Bumrah did what Waqar had done 25 years ago.
It’s probably a coincidence that Bumrah, like Waqar, has a slinging action which makes the ball swing in at a furious pace that got through the defences of Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow.
If you revisit that 1996 Test match on YouTube, you will see how Mushtaq kept landing the ball on the rough outside the right-hander’s leg stump. The Pakistan leggie could extract more turn than what Jadeja does now, but the Indian southpaw bowls at a faster pace, making him equally dangerous.
He got Hasib Hameed and Moeen Ali the way Mushtaq (5-57) dismissed the likes of Atherton, Stewart and Thorpe.
Sunil Gavaskar had said during commentary that this Indian attack is as relentless as the West Indian attack of the 1970s and 80s. But that attack didn’t need a spinner to wipe out the last vestiges of a fight in the opposition.
So Jadeja’s presence makes this Indian attack akin to the Pakistan attack of the 1990s and it makes us wonder whether Virat Kohli has the best bowling attack ever from the subcontinent, at least in the post television era.
“It is not right to compare eras, but what makes this Indian attack stand out is the fact that there is no single hero. If you have Bumrah taking two and Jadeja taking three, there is an Umesh Yadav and a Shardul Thakur who is getting the best opposition batsman (Joe Root) out. That is the beauty of this attack,” K Srikkanth, who had played that Pakistan attack, told TOI.