New Delhi: In the discussions that have been swirling around who should be included in Indian head coach Ravi Shastri's support staff, Bharat Arun seems to be best placed to retain his position. The Indian team's popularity is such that there will be countless opinions about every aspect of the side but if there is one part that has garnered near unanimous praise, it is the bowling department.
The stats work for Arun. In the two-year period between the end of the 2015 World Cup and Arun's appointment as India's bowling coach on July 16, 2017, India had taken 868 wickets at a strike rate of 42.5 across formats. England were the highest on that list with 1002 scalps while India were third.
Since Arun's appointment, the number of wickets Indians have taken in international cricket has risen to 1071 at a strike rate of 36.8 -- India are top of this particular list.
There are multiple individuals vying for positions in both the pace and spin departments accross formats. Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja have been match winners in limited overs while Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin have been kept on their toes by Kuldeep in Tests. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav may have been the more regular names among the pacers but the likes Khaleel Ahmed, Navdeep Saini etc. have been knocking on the doors.
To credit Arun entirely for India's newfound depth in the pace department would be unfair on the individuals themselves who have worked their way towards vying for a position at the top. But the fact remains that once a player has fought his way to the Indian dressing room, it is important for a system to be in place where he is able to consistently perform at a high level. This is where Arun comes in.
Jasprit Bumrah has pretty much been the face of India's pace bowling. Since he made his international debut January 23, 2016, Bumrah has taken 204 wickets across formats. Only Kagiso Rabada, Trent Boult and Mitchell Starc have taken more wickets than him in this period. Bumrah's unique bowling action is something that would make bowling coaches around the world raise their eyebrows and the first instinct would be to tell him to stop whatever it is that he thinks he is doing.
But Arun decided to stick with it. "The first time when I went to the NCA (National Cricket Academy), he was there and he saw my action," Bumrah had said during India's succesfull tour of Australia earlier in the year. "I have been lucky in that he saw my action and he didn't want to change that. He always believed in this action, but he said I had to become stronger. 'We won't change your action, instead we will work on the consistency and everything else will follow', is what he told me."
Consistency is what Arun demanded and it is exactly what he got from Bumrah. The 24-year-old now has over 100 wickets in ODI cricket and is the top ranked bowler in the format and he recently became the fastest Indian pacer to get to 50 Test wickets.
Arun's stint has also coincided with the rise of India's wrist twins in limited overs -- Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. Ravichandran Ashwin has spoken about the kind of help he has got from Bharat Arun in the years they worked together at the TNCA Academy.
The dearth of talent India has got among bowlers means that there have been quite a few players who have been on the fringes of the team. The likes of Mohammed Siraj, Khaleel Ahmed, Shardul Thakur and so on have spoken about how Arun remains approachable for any query they have got about their game.
The Indian team needs improvements in quite a few departments in different formats of the game. However, bowling is not one of them and, as the old adage goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."