India is basking in T20 bowling nirvana

As India takes on the Aussies in their own backyard, it will hope that its attack continues to combine and perform as the formidable unit it has been in recent times.

Published - November 20, 2018 07:45 pm IST

India’s T20 team is sitting pretty at the moment on the shoulders of its bowlers. | AFP

India’s T20 team is sitting pretty at the moment on the shoulders of its bowlers. | AFP

This is a blog post from

T20 is often dubbed a batsman’s game. Look at it another way, though — as a direct result of the insane power-hitting these days, the value of a good, economical, wicket-taking bowler has gone up in T20 cricket. The Indian Premier League is lit with such examples and it only takes a glance at the successful Sunrisers Hyderabad’s outfit to remind you that bowling teams are always more in the game than batting teams. “I think bowlers are hugely underestimated in T20 cricket,” says Tom Moody, Sunrisers Hyderabad coach. “Generally, the most successful teams are those that have the ability to bowl their 120 balls most effectively, with the right balance of attackers and defenders within that bowling core.”

Moody has a point. In the league stages of the 2018 IPL season, Sunrisers Hyderabad gave away just 45.07 runs on an average in the powerplay overs, picking up more than one wicket roughly. They finished the league stage as no.1 team with 9 wins in 14 matches and had among the best run-rates in the league phase.

India have benefitted immensely from the IPL, and this is evident when you take a look at the current Indian T20 bowling line-up. It has four formidable T20 bowlers in Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. While the Indian T20 batting outfit is reliant on Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli for the big runs, the presence of an indomitable bowling attack makes them a modern day T20 colossus.

To get a gist of how incredibly good an attack India has, it is inevitable that we dig into a few numbers. Since the World T20 in 2016 at home, India have developed three bowlers — Chahal, Kuldeep and Bumrah — who are in the list of top 10 wicket-takers in this format of International cricket.


But with Mujeeb-ur-Rahman and Rashid Khan, Afghanistan aren’t too far behind either. So, what is it that makes India such an irrepressible force?

The simple answer is the presence of a set of bowlers who are effective in each phase of a T20 innings. Until before the home T20Is against the Windies, India were opening the attack and ending the innings with Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, both intelligent bowlers with commendable new-ball skills, an accurate yorker, and enough variations to flummox batsmen at the death.

The middle-overs were handled by the spin twins — Chahal and Kuldeep, both wrist-spinners. While wrist-spinners are ruling the format, they tend to leak more runs given that their art is tougher to perform with control. While the duo has strayed away from such onslaughts, there was the odd innings where they struggled to contain the run-flow. Chahal, for instance, has conceded the second-most number of sixes this year in the T20I format.

The previous T20I series saw India switch to a new bowling combination, which arguably played a significant role in helping them wallop the World T20 defending champions 3-0. What changed was the inclusion of Khaleel Ahmed and Krunal Pandya. Make no mistake, the two aren’t outstanding forces in the format and one of them — Khaleel — couldn’t even manage to earn more than the one game for his IPL franchise in 2018. But they fit perfectly into India’s bowling attack.

Khaleel took the new ball with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and was economical at the top; his series economy came under 7 and he got in amongst the wickets. Bhuvneshwar Kumar flourished even without Bumrah accompanying him at the top, and the three pacers managed the death overs amongst them.

In the middle-overs, Kuldeep was aided by some immaculate bowling from Krunal Pandya. The Baroda all-rounder has a career economy of 6.93 in all T20s and is known for his relentless stump-to-stump bowling. While we recognise Ravindra Jadeja for his stinginess, Krunal seems to be rather more effective. Jadeja’s career economy stands at 7.64 (as against Krunal’s 6.93) and even his strike rate is much higher compared to that of Krunal.

What the Mumbai Indians all-rounder’s presence does is to allow Kuldeep to bowl his natural attacking lengths and variations. Khaleel taking up the new ball also frees up Jasprit Bumrah, allowing him to chip in during the middle and latter halves of T20I inningses, which means India has the leeway to use Bumrah and Kuldeep in tandem in the middle overs, a nightmare for most teams.


This combination does not allow for Chahal, though, who has been the most successful T20I bowler, in terms of wickets, for India since the last World T20. But given the quality of the current side, it is only understandable that there is a surplus of resources. This has a perfect blend of T20 bowlers — two good new-ball bowlers who can extract any swing or seam on offer, a wrist-spinner in the middle overs bowling in tandem with a niggardly stump-to-stump left-arm spinning all-rounder and a T20 demi-god who crunches yorkers at will during the death overs.

Add a Hardik Pandya or Kedar Jadhav into the mix and India have a reliable sixth option with either of them bringing in a completely different set of skills. Arguably, no T20I side in the world today can boast an attack as perfect on paper as that of India’s. They have aced the test at home but it remains to be seen if they can replicate the brilliance in Australia, where quick outfields and flat pitches can be a challenge for spin-bowlers.

If they do manage to come good Down Under, India will be close to attaining bowling nirvana in T20s, an underrated success parameter in the shortest format. As Kolkata Knight Riders analyst AR Srikanth says, “Bowling hasn’t taken precedence [in T20 auctions] so far but it will eventually.” The inaugural World T20 champions could perhaps be the avante-grande nation in T20I cricket if their bowling formula clicks.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.