Speaking from his experience of having watched India’s attack operate in the Caribbean earlier this year, former West Indies batsman Brian Lara said that the current Indian fast bowling attack takes him back to the golden years of West Indies cricket, likening Virat Kohli’s pace battery to the West Indies attack of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
India travelled to the islands for a full tour in August this year and beat them in all three formats, sweeping the T20Is 3-0, winning the two completed one-day internationals, and then winning both games in the two-Test series.
It was yet another demonstration of why India have held on to the No.1 spot in the MRF Tyres ICC Test Team Rankings for the last three years, with much of their success stemming from the excellence of their imperious bowling attack.
Since Kohli took over as full-time captain at the start of 2015, India have averaged 25.12 per wicket – the best among all the Test-playing nations in the world. Of the 900 Test wickets they have taken under Kohli, fast bowlers have accounted for 418 of them. Moreover, their strike-rate of 51.8 is the best for any team to have played 10 or more Tests during this period, after South Africa.
"The Indian outfit - batting, bowling and fielding - is exceptional," Lara said at an event in Mumbai. "I thought their fast bowlers were sometimes unplayable [during the recent Test series in the West Indies]. So starting with that, you've got to give India credit with where their cricket is. They're at a very high point.
"Unbelievable. I saw them in the West Indies and I must say, what I was accustomed to in the past, in the '90s and early part of the 21st century, this is a little bit exceptional, this is pretty special.
"When you look at the quality - [Mohammed] Shami, [Jasprit] Bumrah, [Umesh] Yadav, they are unbelievable. And the guys that you have on the sidelines, it reminds me a little bit of what the West Indies had back in the '80s and '90s… the reserve strength is very important in assessing a team's ability. If your reserve strength is very good - Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar] and all these guys are sitting on the sidelines - then it means that your attack is quality.”
I saw them [India's fast bowlers] in the West Indies and I must say, what I was accustomed to in the past, in the '90s and early part of the 21st century, this is a little bit exceptional, this is pretty special.
Lara further said that India are on their way to becoming a truly quality Test side that is capable of matching the all-conquering dominance of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting’s Australia, and Clive Lloyd’s West Indies.
"We all know the Indian team was not the most respected when they travelled. They were very respected at home, but now India on a world stage, anywhere they play, is a force to be reckoned with.
"Well, those teams dominated world cricket… the West Indies in the '70s and '80s, the Australians in the '90s and the early part of the 21st century. India has that capability. Obviously at home, they are very strong, they've always been very, very strong.
"They're now travelling well, they're playing abroad and beating oppositions, which is great. World cricket is a lot more competitive now, Australia, South Africa and England. So India will have to do it over a period of time, dominating all teams to be considered. But they are definitely a top cricketing nation at the moment."
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