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Seam-ing numbers: Virat Kohli’s ‘dream combination’ measured against Windies legends

The Indian quicks' unmatched success in the campaign stands as the primary reason behind the team's unprecedented run. 

Aratrick Mondal Aratrick Mondal
New Delhi Published on: November 18, 2019 16:32 IST
Indian pacers, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma
Image Source : GETTY

Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah of India chat during day four of the Third Test match in the series between Australia and India at Melbourne


Exactly a month back, Brian Lara, in awe of India's pace attack against West Indies and South Africa, said that their formidability were reminiscent of the fearsome fast-bowling attack of the Windies side in the '80s and '90s. Earlier on Sunday, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, who did face some of those legendary pacers in his glorious 16-year-long Test career, too drew a similarity in the two attacks. And a few minutes later, captain Virat Kohli hailed his new weaponry as a "dream bowling combination for any skipper".

Team India have raked up 300 points in just six Tests in World Test Championships, 240 more than the second-placed team and 68 more than all teams combined. India have taken 20 wickets in all the Tests they have played as part of World Test Championship with the pacers bagging 60.8 per cent of those dismissals (73). Even though the batters notched up big hundreds, the bowlers outperformed them even under unfavourable conditions. The pacers were at their impressive best in the South Africa series where they comprehensively outbowled their South African counterparts.

The Indian quicks' unmatched success in the campaign stands as the primary reason behind the team's unprecedented run. "Ours is an extremely skilled bowling attack. If you can bring in a lot of discipline into the skill, that makes them perform well time and again," India's bowling coach Bharat Arun explained in the post-match presser following India's victory in the first Test against Bangladesh.

The rise in dominance of India's pace attack has been the highlight of Virat Kohli's captaincy. While the first half of his captaincy, until the end of their home season, witnessed the rise of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, the second half saw India emerging as a pace powerhouse, one that Kohli had always dreamt of. And it has been this pace unit that has resulted in India's win-loss ratio being around 3:1 and a win percentage of 61.53 -- the third-best among skippers who have led their respective team in 40 or more Tests.

Change in dominance under Kohli's captaincy

  Type Matches Wickets Average SR % of wickets
2014 to Dec 2018 Pacers 32 187 32.74 62.4 34.1
Spinners 32 360 24.13 52.2 65.81
Jan 2018 till date Pacers 20 247 21.59 44 67.85
Spinners 20 117 27.87 59.9 32.14


Kohli has led India in 18 Test series since taking over the captaincy duties in December 2014 and the bowling unit has averaged 25.94 -- the best for any Test side within the time frame. While at home they averaged a tad below 25 (24.60) with the bowlers bagging all 20 wickets in 19 out of 28 matches, their average stood at 27.30 under overseas conditions with the unit picking all 20 wickets on 18 occasions (10 of which were in SENA countries) out of the total 25 Tests.

The bowlers' overall average under Kohli makes it the third-best in the history of Test cricket under any captain who has led his country in 40 or more matches. The bowling attack under England's Peter May (21.94) and South African team led by Hansie Cronje (25.84) have a lower average than Kohli's India. In fact, Kohli's bowling unit has a better bowling average than the bowlers under Windies great Clive Llyod (27.93) and Viv Richards (25.97). And it was these two captains who had led one of the most fearsome bowling attacks comprising Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.

Seam-ing Numbers

Under Kohli, pacers took 46.3 per cent (434) of the total wickets (936) at an average of 26.40 and their wicket per Test rate is 8.34. However, if the numbers are compared with the Windies fast bowlers under Richards and Llyod, India stand way down the order. Under Richards, the pacers bagged 95.5 per cent of the total wickets at an average of 22.89 while under Llyod, the pacers managed 88.8 per cent of the total wickets at 24.93. In fact, among Indian skippers, Kohli stands second behind Dhoni in terms of wicket contribution by pacers. Under Dhoni, it was 49.78 per cent (466 out of 936) of the total wickets, but they averaged 35.36.

One reason behind the lower percentage under Kohli could be India playing more home games under his captaincy, but the average of the pacers are better than the attacks under Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Graeme Smith. Barring Richards and Llyod, Kohli's India also behind Hansie Cronje, P May and Greg Chappell.

Kohli's Weapons

Pacers Matches Wickets Average SR 5WI
Mohammed Shami  36 135 24.23 46.1 4
I Sharma  34 93 27.64 59.8 3
UT Yadav  31 83 32.13 58 1
JJ Bumrah  12 62 19.24 43.7 5
B Kumar  9 33 22.09 47.5 2

Four of these five have 50-plus wickets (except Bhuvneshwar Kumar) and among those four, three (except Umesh Yadav) averages below 30 under Kohli. Comparing it with world leaders who have led their country in more than 40 Tests, only Richard and Llyod had led an attack where all the pacers averaged below 30 and had taken 50-plus wickets. Kohli's proportion share under that list is the fourth-best after England's Michael Vaughan.

No. of pacers with 50-plus wickets and average under 30 and 25 for each skipper 

Captain Total pacers Avg < 25 Avg <30
Ponting 9 2 4
Kohli 5 2 3
Lloyd 6 4 6
Richards 5 4 5
Cronje 7 3 4
G Chappell 8 3 3
M Vaughan 7 4 5

The Indian pace attack under Kohli may still be behind in terms of wicket contribution compared to Lloyd and Richard's West Indies. But their average and wicket rate has surely left them closer to those legendary pacers. Moreover, India now have a complete attack and look equally dominant with spin and pace under any given conditions.

"If you ask me, we [India's fast-bowling attack] are right at the top. I won't even count ourselves in the [top] 3. These guys deserve it. As a captain when we started off, that was the conversation, that was the one thing in my mind that I really wanted to see happen. Batting was never an issue, spin was never an issue. After Zak [Zaheer Khan] and all the stalwarts went away, we were thinking how can we get back to the top, have the ability and the firepower to pick 20 wickets.

"Just seeing the way they've bowled, it's the belief that stands out - any kind of the pitch, any kind of opposition, they believe that they can get more out of the pitch than the opposition. And that belief matters a lot - in fact it is everything for a fast bowler. I couldn't be more happy for them. And the best thing is they're still not done yet. They're getting more and more hungry every time they step out and that's their biggest strength," Kohli had said in the post-match presser in Indore. 

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