The fact that India’s bowling is one of the weakest in the world, has stood the test of time, withering the attacks from World Cup and Champions Trophy victories.
But who is the bowler who has been the most expensive for India in the last 10 years of ODI cricket – especially after the advent of that run making machine called T20 cricket?
The minimum qualification needed to make the cut for this list of most expensive bowlers for India in ODIs, is to have bowled at least 3000 balls (500 overs) over the past 10 years.
It takes out of question bowlers like Ashok Dinda, Sreesanth, RP Singh and Piyush Chawla, who despite having some very good numbers to their name, just haven’t bowled enough to be on this list.
Interestingly, Ashok Dinda has the highest economy rate (6.18) for any Indian bowler who has bowled in at least 10 matches for India.
On a different note, Munaf Patel, one of the crowd favourites when it comes to discussing India’s poor bowling, has bowled more than 500 overs in last 10 years and has an economy rate of 4.95, less than even Zaheer Khan (5.12) in this period!
That’s the queer thing about stats; it doesn’t always reveal the complete picture and shouldn’t be the only factor when it comes to comparing players in cricket.
Moving on, here are the 5 most expensive bowlers for India in ODIs:
5. Yuvraj Singh (Innings: 122, Overs: 657.5, Wickets: 87, Economy Rate: 5.12)
India’s World Cup hero and the all-rounder who beat cancer, features at no. 5.
Without a doubt, he’s one of the champion cricketers of our era, but only in the past few years has he really developed as a wicket-taking option for Dhoni.
The first Indian bowler to concede 30 runs in an over in ODIs, Yuvraj Singh has gained much experience in bowling after struggling to keep batsmen scoring off his slow loopy deliveries earlier in his career.
4. Praveen Kumar (Innings: 67, Overs: 540.2, Wickets: 77, Economy Rate: 5.13)
Slow medium pace with years of toil in domestic cricket behind him, it took a while to get used to Praveen Kumar.
He produced some delightful swing with the new ball. His success in the 2007-08 CB series put him in the limelight, and it was wonderful to watch him bowl in those first 10-15 overs as the ball moved like a snake both sides of the seam in the air.
But once that initial burst was over, once the ball lost its shine, his bowling became a major concern. The cons of that slow medium pace surfaced more during the latter part of the innings when with the old ball, he wasn’t able to get as much movement in the air as during the start of an innings.
Soon, he became a liability in the death overs and fitness and anger management issues have kept him out of the side since.
3. Irfan Pathan (Innings: 118, Overs: 975.5, Wickets: 173, Economy Rate: 5.26)
Once touted to be the next Wasim Akram, the younger Pathan’s career has seen some steep ups and downs.
From destroying Pakistan and Australia at the start of his career, to falling to the false dream of becoming India’s next Kapil Dev, resurfacing again to be India’s Man of the Match in 2007 T20 World Cup final, and then going out of the loop again to inconsistency and injuries, it’s been an emotionally draining ride for many Indian cricket fans.
The first version of Irfan Pathan had the pace and swing to trouble the best of batsmen in the world. But after the first 2-3 years in international cricket, his form took such a fall in 2006 that he was sent back home in the middle of a tour against South Africa.
He made his return in 2007. By now, his action had changed; he had a much straighter action and the natural flow of his arm which resulted in the extravagant swing, was gone. Irfan still flourished. 2007 T20 World Cup and the Perth Test victory in 2008 were the most memorable moments of the Irfan Pathan version 2.0.
But injuries pushed him out of the side, and he has struggled to make a comeback ever since.
2. Ashish Nehra (Innings: 78, Overs: 617.5, Wickets: 110, Economy Rate: 5.58)
The original Delhi run-machine, watching Nehra bowl was one of the most frustrating experience for an Indian cricket fan.
When he could do what he did in the 2003 World Cup against England, it was agony to watch him bowl on most occasions.
His lanky frame brought him pace, and a clean action some lethal late swing. But he was hardly able to keep his line and length intact.
He would bound in, bowl with all his might, spray the ball all around the pitch and then in all hilarity, shout at the fielders, faulting them at the top of his voice for being responsible for leaking those runs.
His last over against South Africa in the 2011 World Cup was the most frustrating memory for Indian fans. Zaheer had bowled brilliantly the penultimate over and given away only 4 runs.
Nehra, bowling the last over of the chase, was unlucky to have induced an inside edge which went for a boundary on the first ball, but was hit for two more boundaries and ended up giving away 16 runs in 4 balls. It was the only match India lost in the World Cup and at that time, one wouldn’t have wanted to be in his shoes.
Though he performed well against Pakistan in the semi-final, an injury, like always, ruled him out of the final and hasn’t played for India ever since.
But continuing his legacy, is…
1. Ishant Sharma (Innings: 67, Overs: 528.1, Wickets: 96, Economy Rate: 5.70)
Ishant Sharma may or may not realise his dream of being the Indian pace spearhead, but he is actually head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd when it comes to economy rate in the last 10 years in ODIs.
A case of another Sharma being given more than just a long rope, Ishant has been yet another story of a talent gone waste, at least as far as the current scenario is concerned.
His back of the length bowling has been an utter disaster in limited overs cricket. His inability to have a back-up plan and extremely predictable line and length bowling have bore the batsmen’s brunt on many occasions.
Most of his wickets have come during the latter part of the innings, as he goes for over 7 runs an over and is gifted some ‘cheap’ wickets as batsmen try to target him more often.
For someone who once wanted to bowl like Zaheer Khan, it’s a long, long way to go before reaching anywhere near the dream.