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India’s golden generation of fast bowling is ageing – who are the next in line?

Next generation of Indian fast bowlers
by Naman Agarwal 6 minute read

The Indian Test team is about to go through a period of transition that will require them to groom their next generation of fast bowlers. Naman Agarwal examines the options India have for the future.

India’s fast bowling revolution in Test cricket that started under Virat Kohli produced a crop of quicks they never had in their Test history. The period between 2018 and 2022 saw Indian fast bowlers take 506 wickets at an average of 23.96. Fast bowlers from no other Test team averaged as low as that in this period.

When Jasprit Bumrah made his Test debut in early 2018, Ishant Sharma had already completed a decade as a Test cricketer, Umesh Yadav six years, and Mohammed Shami four. Yet, the arrival of Bumrah flicked a switch in the Indian fast-bowling setup – as if they had found the missing piece of the puzzle that finally made the other pieces have purpose.


Over the next few years, the four Indian quicks combined to wreak havoc on opposition batting lineups in a period when pacers ruled Test cricket more than they had for decades. India had their own bunch, and they ruled the hardest. Along the way, these four found able support from Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur, and even from Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to an extent.

This golden generation of Indian fast bowling was good, the best, in fact, in India’s Test cricket history. However, all good things come to an end.

Ishant, 34 now, has gone out of favour; Bumrah’s awkward action has caught up with him as his struggles with back injuries recur; and at 35, Umesh is the oldest of the bunch, and has the axe hanging over his head.

With Shami (32) getting promoted to leader of the attack and Siraj (29) his deputy, the Indian Test team now needs a succession plan with respect to its fast bowlers with an eye for the long-term future.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at how the Indian fast-bowling macrocosm has been shaping up in domestic first-class cricket.

Indian fast bowlers in domestic First Class cricket since 2020

Jaydev Unadkat played his second Test match last year against Bangladesh, 12 years after playing his first. He did well in that game but hasn’t played a Test match since. If and when he gets another opportunity, and if and when he fails to put up a decent performance, there will be a section of the public that will try to make you believe that he only got back into the Indian team because of this tweet by him in January 2022. Don’t believe them.

Unadkat has been head and shoulders above other Indian fast bowlers in domestic First Class cricket in the last three years. Since the 2019/20 Ranji Trophy season, he has taken 119 wickets in 21 First Class games (except Test matches) at an average of 15.07. No other Indian quick has taken 100 wickets in this period.

The Bengal pair of Akash Deep and Mukesh Kumar has been the next best, with 90 wickets at 21.41 and 88 wickets at 21.78 respectively.

While Unadkat is a part of the Indian Test setup now and at 31 years of age, can play a major role for the next few years, India still need to identify and groom young seamers who have shown potential in domestic cricket, with a horizon of 8-10 years in mind.

Among those who are 26 years of age or below, 11 fast bowlers have taken more than 30 wickets in domestic First Class cricket (excluding Test matches and including India 'A' games) since the 2019/20 Ranji season. If you increase the age cut-off to 27, the number becomes 14.

Among these fourteen, nine have averaged less than 25, with Ishan Porel and Simarjeet Singh marginally crossing the line with averages of 25.33 and 25.2 respectively.

The potential next-gen of Indian fast bowling in Test cricket

The 11 fast bowlers filtered above include the following.

*Stats refer to those in first-class cricket (except Test matches and except for matches against Plate Division teams and teams from the North-East zone) since the 2019/20 Ranji Trophy season*

  1. Prithviraj Yarra - 30 wickets @ 19.13, age 25
  2. Himanshu Sangwan - 37 wickets @ 19.13, age 27
  3. Avesh Khan - 70 wickets @ 20.25, age 26
  4. Akash Deep - 90 wickets @ 21.41, age 26
  5. KV Sasikanth - 70 wickets @ 20.72, age 27
  6. Vaibhav Arora - 54 wickets @ 22.31, age 25
  7. Atit Sheth - 35 wickets @ 24, age 27
  8. Arzan Nagwaswalla - 51 wickets @ 24.37, age 25
  9. Ajay Sarkar - 32 wickets @ 24.59, age 26
  10. Ishan Porel - 66 wickets @ 25.33, age 24
  11. Simarjeet Singh - 35 wickets @ 25.2, age 25

Among these bowlers, Avesh Khan is the only one who has made his international debut (albeit not in Test cricket). Prithviraj has been around the Test team as a net bowler, as have some others, while Sheth, Nagwaswalla, and Porel have all been part of India A teams over the last three years. Among the other names in this list, Arora is the most prominent one who has shown his skills in the IPL.

Apart from these eight bowlers, there are a few other relatively young fast bowlers as well that India have invested in some capacity or the other in the last couple of years.

Umran Malik, Prasidh Krishna, and Kuldeep Sen have played limited-overs cricket for India. Kartik Tyagi, a star at the 2020 Under-19 World Cup, has been around the Test team as a net bowler.

Arshdeep Singh, who has played just eight first-class matches so far, recently made his County Championship debut and possesses a unique set of skills that might be of interest for the Indian Test team going forward.

This brings us down to 13 fast bowlers aged 27 or below who India can zero in on and groom with an eye for the long-term future. Other names will obviously spring up, either through domestic cricket or the IPL. They can be taken under the wing of this batch as and when they come, but this is a solid base to start with.

Nagwaswalla, Prithviraj, and Arshdeep are left-arm seamers, an extremely rare commodity in today’s Indian Test setup. Avesh, Prasidh, Kuldeep, Tyagi, and Akash can be groomed for their hit-the-deck skills, skills that every Test team requires but India is lacking.

Porel is known for his accuracy, extra bounce, and stamina. Sheth has the potential to be a fast bowling all-rounder much like Thakur. The tall Simarjeet is quick, and has a natural outswinger.

Arora has the big-booming inswinger and recently showed that he can touch 140 kph and hit the bat hard in the IPL, while Umran is the fastest bowler in the country.

All these bowlers possess different skill sets and have either gone through the grind of domestic First Class cricket with good results or have been around the national white ball setup and have shown lots of promise. The most important common factor though, is that all of them are relatively young, with the oldest among them being 27.

Shami, Siraj, Unadkat, and Thakur all have a few years of Test cricket left in them. Bumrah might make sporadic appearances in between, fitness permitting. This makes it the ideal time to start grooming these youngsters with specific visions in mind.

Naturally, not all of them will respond well. Some might drop off due to injury, some due to performance, but a batch size of thirteen is decent enough to start with. If four of them are able to form a quartet as formidable as that of Bumrah, Ishant, Shami, and Umesh in the next few years, the Indian Test team will be in safe hands.

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