Top bowling performances for Team India in the Year 2021
Post the infrequent and unpredictable cricket schedule in the peak pandemic year of 2020, the cricketing world was set to make up for all the lost time with packed calendars across the cricketing nations and India itself playing 14 Test matches against the highly competitive teams of Australia, England, New Zealand and most recently South Africa, a pool of bilateral limited over series and of course the T20 World Cup 2021.
The demanding schedule was not only limited to the amount of games played but also drew salience from the quality of the opposition. Big matches with high stakes meant plenty of entertainment and stellar performances and as clockwork, the games delivered on their promise.
India played 8 Tests away and 6 at home, showcasing their best in a good mix of seam and spin. Over the course of the year, India’s Test team reinforced their identity of raising their game when the situation demanded them to do so, spearheaded by their bowling group.
Almost like a pack of hunters, India’s potent bowling attack took all 20 wickets in 10 of the 14 matches played. Virat’s foresight of developing an out and out pace quadrant reaped dividends seen infrequently in India’s Test history, winning/leading in every Test series played in the calendar year with the exception of the singular WTC Final game against New Zealand.
Mohammed Siraj (5/73 vs Australia, Gabba)
Playing only his third Test match, Mohammed Siraj was entrusted the responsibility of heading the Indian bowling after a series of consecutive injuries and a vastly depleted side. Amidst a high-pressure series, uncertainties of a depleted side, personal adversity and uncalled for racist remarks, the pacer did what he knew best, bowled with heart and got the ball to swing.
After registering figures of 1/77 in the first innings, Siraj picked his maiden 5-wicket haul with crucial middle-order wickets of Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Matthew Wade to restrict the seemingly dominant Australia to 294 runs in the second innings. Leading the team off the field, it was not the win but the manner of contribution to the cause which remained historic.
Jasprit Bumrah (2/27 vs England, The Oval)
The undisputed leader of Indian seam attack, Jasprit Bumrah always showcases his skills with perfect bowling adequacy and intent. Although only three matches earlier, the pacer bagged a fifer against the same opposition, the skill on display on the 5th day of The Oval Test marked a performance in a league of it own.
England opening partnership stood tall for 40 overs before the fall of the first wicket and serious discussions of the Indian total of 368 being chased were all the talk in the commentary box. With the touring team managing their way to 140/3, the old ball showed few signs of reversing. Confident in his skill, Bumrah bowled a relentless 6-over spell with pin-point precision and extreme pace with 3 maidens, 6 runs and 2 wickets. He bowled out Ollie Pope and then yorked Jonny Bairstow with a vicious in-swinging yorker for a duck with Joe Root closely escaping two, what seemed almost unplayable deliveries.
Jasprit Bumrah, as we have come to expect, turned the game on its head with sheer will and skill taking the team to a 2-1 lead in the series. He also went on to take the record of the quickest Indian fast bowler to complete 100 Test wickets (24 matches) in that game.
Ravichandran Ashwin (5/43 and 3/53 vs England, Chennai)
In the two series that India played at home this year, Ravichandran Ashwin was named the player of the series in both. This year saw Ashwin rise and retained his no. 2 spot in ICC bowler and all-rounder rankings. He has also been also nominated for Test cricketer of the year but more importantly he took 54 Test wickets in 9 matches played, the highest for any bowler in the current season.
In the home series against England, he bagged three five-wicket hauls in four matches at an average of 14.72, in what can only be described as out-thinking every batter to their demise and his ridiculous ability against left-handed bats, Ashwin’s best performance came fittingly at his home ground in Chennai.
Taking a fifer in the first innings and a three-fer in the second, he harnessed the helpful conditions by alternating between his line, pace and method of delivery. Dom Sibley was the first to fall prey, post which Dan Lawrence and Ben stokes were amongst the notable dismissals. In the second innings he manged to get Rory Burns with a ball spinning away sharply and for the second time in the same match, Lawrence and Stokes fell without putting much resistance. Bowling against the left handers, Ashwin operated with such accuracy that it seemed not a question of if but when with the ball drifting and dipping quickly.
He also went past Harbhajan Singh to become the third highest Indian wicket taker in Test match cricket behind only Anil Kumble and Kapil Dev. Then of course, there was the small matter of a 2nd innings century in the Chennai Test, his 5th in the longest format.