Indian bowler Ishant Sharma (C) celebrates the dismissal of South African batsman and Captain Faf du Plessis (not in picture) during the second day of the second Test cricket match between South Africa and India at Supersport cricket ground on January 14, 2018 in Centurion, South Africa. / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Can The Indian Pacers Script A Historic Win in England?

This is the test that Virat Kohli, the captain, will be judged on. A five-Test match series in England. This is more than just a bilateral Test series, this is India’s chance to stake their claim to truly be the Number One Test side in the world. At home this team has been magnificent, with some huge wins under their belts in the last two years. This time, though, the challenge is completely different. They visit a place where recent Test match memories have been nothing short of nightmares. To ensure that this trip does not end in a disaster, the Indian pacers need to put in a big and better performance, much better than they have in previous overseas tours.

When the team for the first three Tests was announced on July 18, there was a big omission. India’s swing king, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, has been ruled out due to a back injury. Jasprit Bumrah, who missed the limited-overs assignments due to a finger injury, will be available for selection from the second Test. Kumar has been replaced in the squad by Shardul Thakur, who is yet to make his Test debut.

How have the Indian pacers fared in the previous tours to England?

2011- Four-Test Match Series

India’s trip started in the worst possible manner when they lost their pace spearhead, Zaheer Khan, on the first morning of the first Test itself with a leg injury. Zaheer, who started magnificently with 13.3-8-18-2, perhaps took India’s life with him as the rest of the bowlers just could not contain the English batsmen. Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth and RP Singh were the Indian pacers for that tour and they did not have a good time to say the least.

Putting the performances of all the four combined, the figures look bleak. 477-90-1694-34 being the cumulative series figures of all the four, they picked a wicket at an average of 49.82 and an economy rate of 3.55, which is just not good enough. In the four Tests, England batted just six times, lost their full set of wickets only twice, declared thrice and crossed the 450 mark four times. India lost the series 0-4, a whitewash.

2014- Five-Test Match Series

In contrast to the 2011 debacle, India started this Test series positively and after two Tests, they led the series 1-0, with a famous win at Lord’s. India’s pacers were brilliant then, Bhuvneshwar Kumar picking up two fifers and Ishant Sharma picking up a fifer too. After Lord’s all went downhill for the Indians and the bowling too became lackluster. India conceded scores in excess of 450 twice and England batted only four times in the last Three Tests. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron, Pankaj Singh and Stuart Binny were the Indian pacers used then. Kumar and Ishant snapped up 33 wickets together, the rest had a tour to forget.
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Putting the cumulative series figures forward, the Indian pacers were slightly better than the 2011 drubbing. 545.5-104-1935-45, the seamers took a wicket at an average of 43 and an economy rate of 3.55. While the start was good, India ended the series on a very mediocre note and eventually lost the series 1-3.

2007- Three-Test Match Series

In perhaps India’s greatest overseas win of the 21st century, it was the Indian pacers who put their hands up and took India to a famous series win, 21 years after India’s famous 1986 series win. The Indian pacers combined to take 41 out of the 56 English wicket to fall in the series, one of India’s best bowling performances in an overseas tour. Zaheer Khan, RP Singh, Sourav Ganguly and Sreesanth were the four Indian pacers used on tour and their cumulative series figures make for impressive reading. 369.5-98-1116-41, the seamers took a wicket at an average of 27.22 and an economy rate of 3.02. Zaheer Khan was the Man of the Series for his amazing return of 18 wickets in the three Tests.

How have current Indian pacers performed on overseas tours?

Only including performances in Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa

Ishant Sharma
Australia: 20 wickets at an average of 62.15, 3.54 economy rate
England: 25 wickets at an average of 40.84, 3.54 economy rate
New Zealand: 23 wickets at an average of 30.91, 3.55 economy rate
South Africa: 20 wickets at an average of 40, 3.18 economy rate

Mohammed Shami
Australia: 15 wickets at an average of 35.80, 4.25 economy rate
England: 5 wickets at an average of 73.20, 3.81 economy rate
New Zealand: 10 wickets at an average of 35.10, 3.52 economy rate
South Africa: 21 wickets at an average of 24.71, 3.27 economy rate

Umesh Yadav
Australia: 25 wickets at an average of 43.96, 4.65 economy rate

Jasprit Bumrah
South Africa: 14 wickets at an average of 25.21, 3.15 economy rate

Hardik Pandya
South Africa: 3 wickets at an average of 54, 3.18 economy rate

Shardul Thakur
Yet to make his Test debut

The reckoning is here. Virat Kohli and his boys know the challenge is as tough as they come: they have lost seven out of the last nine Tests in England. Their home record under Kohli is spotless. The greatness of this team and Kohli as captain though will be judged on how they perform overseas. To be successful, the pacers will have to hunt in packs and produce a memorable series performance. India know that their pacers have the potential to perform overseas, as seen in the recent series in South Africa. It is not a coincidence that India’s only series win in England this century has come when the seamers took centre stage. The numbers back that analogy. India’s pacers will determine the course of the team.

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