2019 for fast bowlers was more than just a special year. Just like spinners- whether those with the cunning and guile of leg-spinners and the left-arm orthodox specialists fought back in the last decade or so, fast bowlers chose 2019 to target headlines, plunging back to the mainstream of the fans’ attention akin to the big strikes swatted all over the cricketing world by the likes of a Stokes, Kohli, Warner, Smith, Williamson, and Hetmyer.
2019 for fast bowlers was the antidote to the lack of attention the swingers and movers of the white and red ball endured in the previous years. The existing powerhouses of seam bowling- whether in an India or Australia, England or New Zealand-arose with much wider acclaim in the world, while newer faces emerged to shine one of cricket’s much-acclaimed talents brightly.
Pat Cummins has emerged as the no.1 fast bowler in Tests with his pace and consistency. If the preceding years saw the dominance of wrist spin, 2019 has been a year of Pace Merchants, who have excelled in both the short and long formats.
The 2019 World Cup was always expected to be a marquee event with batsmen subjecting bowlers to a state of anonymity with brutal hitting just like in the 2015 World Cup. But, unlike in the tournament down under, the 2019 event witnessed an equal match up, with the bowlers rising up to the task extremely well.
As is the case in the year of a Cricket World Cup, all the major talking points are surrounded around the 2019 World Cup where the hosts, England overcame New Zealand in a dramatic and tense final and emerged as the winners albeit amidst controversial circumstances. England’s power-hitting credentials set them apart on quite a few occasions but ultimately it was their bowling unit spearheaded by Jofra Archer which tilted the scales in their favor.
Apart from the statistical inferences, Jofra Archer has been able to recreate the same sort of aura based on fear and intimidation which Mitchell Johnson had done a few years ago. Mitchell Starc, with all his quirky deviations, yet again showed his class during the World Cup where he emerged as the top wicket-taker with 27 scalps in 10 matches at an average of 18.59.
Callum Ferguson and Trent Boult combined well in the World Cup and managed to pick up 21 and 17 wickets respectively. Trent Boult was at his lethal best especially against India as he blew away their top-order in a sensational manner in the semi-finals of the World Cup.
Sheldon Cotrell of the West Indies has shown remarkable consistency and has also managed to lead their pace attack quite well. Mustafizur Rahaman has had a strange year as he was the third-highest wicket-taker in the World Cup with 20 wickets but has struggled with injuries after that.
The magnificent rise of Indian fast bowling defined India’s other big strength, the batting unquestionably being from the very top drawer. Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, and Ishant Sharma have all picked up more than 20 wickets in Test Matches in 2019 with an average below 20. The last time a trio achieved such a fest was in 1978, when Ian Botham, Bob Willis and Chris Old from England troubled batsmen with their versatility and raw pace.
Mohammad Shami has surely been a revelation this year, having picked up 42 wickets in 21 ODI’S. His brilliance has not only been limited to white-ball cricket, as he outclassed batsmen in the longest format as well with his pace, deception, and accuracy. Sunil Gavaskar has also compared him with the legendary Malcolm Marshal, a praise which is sure to motivate him to scale even greater heights. His hat trick in the World Cup saved India the blushes against a spirited Afghanistan.
Overall, he picked up 14 wickets in the tournament with a staggering average of 13.78.
Jasprit Bumrah is the one who has built up a massive reputation at the International level and displayed his terrific skills in the tour to Australia and subsequently in the World Cup. With a much-improved Ishant Sharma, and a lethal Umesh Yadav India has a problem of plenty as far as Fast bowling is concerned. The recently concluded test matches against South Africa and Bangladesh was a prime example of how India doesn’t only have seasoned spinners but also dangerous fast bowlers who are currently the best in the world.
In that regard, it would suffice to suggest that 2019 for fast bowlers was about as effective and lethal as was the 1996 World Cup for Sachin Tendulkar or the recent Ashes for upholding the credentials of Steve Smith as the best Test batsman at the moment.
The success brought out by 2019 for fast bowlers served a major throwback to the period of the halcyon ’90s when Wasim, Waqar, Donald, Pollock, and Ambrose instilled fear in the minds of batsmen. If only the likes of Nasim Shah, Shaheen Afridi, and Nuwan Pradeep can lift their game, Cricket can once again present an equal tussle between the bat and the ball.
With T20’s ruled by the spinners, bowlers are in the fray once again. So will 2020 be the year for bowlers again?