With a few notable exceptions, India have not had a reputation for producing quality fast bowling. In some ways the IPL is the perfect vehicle for this to change. With foreign coaches coming in, and high quality seamers in every team there is no excuse for Indian players to not develop their games.
So it's interesting to see who has taken advantage of this. Who is getting better, and who is stagnating? And which bowlers are consistently providing world class performances?
Firstly I looked at the Average and Economy Rate for the last 10 IPL matches for the 11 best performing Indian quick bowlers who had bowled in at least 4 matches this IPL. Here are the numbers:
|R Vinnay Kumar||34.67||8.67|
There's a mixed bag there. Some (like Ashish Nehra and Ashok Dinda) have been good at taking wickets, but have gone for a lot of runs. Others (like Zaheer Khan and particularly Praveen Kumar) have been economical, but have not taken many wickets.
There can be arguments about which is the most important, but ideally a bowler will have a good economy rate and a good average. I feel that a quality player should average under 25 and have an economy rate of under 7.5.
So once I had isolated the best performers of the Indian quick bowlers, the next question was to look at each of them in detail, to see if they had been making the most of the opportunities that had been afforded to them through the IPL.
Munaf Patel is shaping up as a bowler who could in the future genuinely look the likes of Malinga, Steyn and Broad in the eye. 10 wickets for 89 runs this IPL suggests that he possibly already can.
He does not seem to have got much benefit from the IPL, but he was already a top bowler before the competition really got established.
We can see that his results (particularly his economy rate) have been steadily improving. Combine this with some useful lower-order hitting in some non-IPL t20 matches (including 107* off 60 for Delhi against Railways), Bhatia looks like a very useful performer.
Unfortunately he's 32, and the Indian selectors are much more likely to look at youth, than try out a player who only offers a few years service. This is a pity, as his numbers are very impressive (if you were to take his figures and Zaheer Khan's figures and compare them, on all but 19 of the 177 days that they have been in season Bhatia has had a better average, and in all but 21 he's had a better economy rate)
He's managed to upstage his more illustrious colleagues Ashish Nehra, Angelo Mathews and Wayne Parnell, and in the process really establish himself as a very reliable contributor. He's gone at less than 6 an over so far this season, and if he keeps that up, an international recall may be on the cards.
The graph clearly shows what is sometimes called 2nd year syndrome. A player has a good start, so everyone tries to figure out how to play them. The test of a great player is if they can come back from this and have a great third year. It seems to have taken a little longer than that for Dinda, but this year (his 5th in the IPL) is shaping up to be his best yet.
This whole article stemmed out of me researching to decide who to pick in my fantasy team, and despite what the numbers suggest, I actually went for Praveen Kumar. The reason is that it seems unlikely to me that a bowler can keep putting batsmen under pressure, and for that to continue to not result in wickets. Eventually someone is going to target him, and he'll either go for a lot of runs, or pick up their wicket. The interesting thing in this graph is the demonstration of how his game has changed. From a bowler who in one 10 match period averaged 20's but went for close to 8 an over, to a player who now averages a lot higher, but goes for less runs per over.
Sometimes a bowler like that causes so much pressure that a wicket falls at the other end. Peter Siddle is a good example of a bowler who also does that. The bowler at the other end bowls a bad ball and it gets hit down a fielders throat.
If I were an Indian selector, I would certainly take heart from the start of the IPL. Bhatia has to be coming into reckoning, as does Dinda, and once Varun Arron and RP Singh are back from injury, there could be a real surplus of talented quick bowlers for them to chose from. This is not a position that India has historically enjoyed very often.
*all statistics are accurate before the start of play on 21/4/2012