Can the fabulous Malik and exuberant Tyagi become India’s latest pace battery?

Virat Kohli and his band of merry men conquered the hitherto impregnable fortresses Down Under and in England on the back of fiery performances from a young pace battery, led by the inimitable Jasprit Bumrah, and ably complemented by the likes of Mohammad Shami and Mohammad Siraj. For the first time in decades did India have a pace unit that could hold their own on racy tracks abroad, be it the green of England or the hard, bouncy surfaces in Australia. The experience of Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav allied with the exuberance of Siraj and Bumrah kept the opposition nailed down, and how. Shots were called by the Indian team overseas in one of their most successful, consistent runs abroad, as they shook off the tag of being poor travelers for the first time in their Test history.

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Much of the emergence of this brood of pacers has been attributed to the IPL, which breeds homegrown talent into players who would have to stand their ground against some of the best international stars on the planet. Bumrah and Siraj were such products, and India’s over-reliance on spin and the occasional good pacer, like Zaheer Khan or Bhuvneshwar Kumar, could finally be ruled out. Even as Siraj, Shami and Bumrah have been blooded into the senior side, their careers blossoming as they mow down oppositions in tandem, new talent keeps flooding in, bolstering India’s bench strength even further.

The U-19 World Cup in early 2020 showed glimpses of one such prospect for the future of Indian pace. Steaming in against World Cup bullies Australia, a young boy from Uttar Pradesh cracked open the top order of the Aussies, scalping two wickets out of a match total of four in the first over of the innings, leaving the Aussies 5/3 after the first. His spell of 4/24 in 8 overs, after a decent batting show upfront, took India U-19 to the semi-finals of the tournament, one they eventually lost to Bangladesh in the final. Tyagi would go on to bag an IPL contract with the Rajasthan Royals in 2020, and pick 9 wickets at a decent economy in his debut year.

In 2021, he impressed again with the limited opportunities he got, picking 4 wickets at a slightly better economy than before. His wide range of variations foxed opposition batsmen, a prime example of which would be the one over he bowled against the Punjab Kings in 2021. The Kings needed 10 off the last 15 balls, but they bottled the chase in spectacular fashion, something that was sadly not too surprising for their fans that season. Needing four off the last over, seasoned internationals Aiden Markram, Nicholas Pooran, and later Fabian Allen came up short against the young Tyagi, as he picked two wickets for just one run in the over, nailing precise yorkers Bumrah would be proud of. Dale Steyn himself has said that Tyagi ha impressed him a lot. He was picked by the Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2022, but has played only two matches, picking a solitary wicket.

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The Sunrisers kept Tyagi and his variations on the bench because they had in another young star the wealth of unbridled pace. Hailing from distant Kashmir, the young pacer keeps testing the speed gun regularly in the IPL, having reached dizzying heights of raw pace with his orthodox action. He holds the record for the second- and fourth-fastest deliveries in the IPL, at 157 kmph and 156 kmph respectively, both clocked in the same over in a match against Delhi Capitals. Critics have often pointed out how the young gun deals in just raw pace, often getting hit for runs due to his one-dimensional approach. He seems to have dealt with the issue, however – he has added newer sides to his bowling, as is evident with his consistently growing returns: he has picked 15 wickets this season in 11 outings, at a slightly high economy of 9.10, but then he must be allowed as much, having bowled the tougher overs toward the beginning or end of the innings.

Perhaps an India cap is sooner expected for Malik than for Tyagi, simply on the back of his record-breaking pace figures, but it is evident that opportunities abound aplenty for both pacers. Bowling in tandem, they can be expected to fill in the big shoes of Bumrah and company once they retire. As long as newer generations of pacers like Tyagi and Malik keep the bench happy, India’s fortunes abroad lie in safe hands.

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