While talking about Indian Cricket, the first thing that comes to mind is its batsmen and spinners.
But we often forget that it was the fast bowlers that secured the most memorable victories for the Indian team.
Be it the final of the 1983 World Cup, or the famous Perth Test match victory in 2008, or the memorable Lords Test win in 2014 – it was always the fast bowlers who made it possible.
In this list, we try to take a look at the Top 10 Indian Fast Bowlers and try to rank them according to their skill as fast bowlers
Top 10 Indian Fast Bowlers of All Time
1) Kapil Dev
First Indian captain to win a World Cup, Kapil Dev is arguably India’s best fast bowler and all-rounder.
He was not quick like his contemporaries like Botham or Imran but made it up with his high accuracy, and lethal outswingers
Kapil with a perfectly side-on action was spot on with his line and length and always bowled hard lines for right-handed batsmen
Later he also developed an inswinging yorker which worked very effectively for him in the death overs
He is the only player to take over 400 wickets (434 wickets) and scored more than 5000 runs in Test cricket.
Following knee surgery in 1984, he lost some of his bite but was India’s first-choice pacer until he retired in 1994
Kapil Dev, with 434 Test wickets ( 131 tests ), 253 ODIwickets ( 225 ODIs ) features at No.1 on our list
2) Zaheer Khan
Zaheer Khan was probably technically the most gifted Indian fast bowler of all time, especially with the old ball.
He made his debut in 2000 and made an impression with his ability to bowl fast and accurate yorkers at the death
His ability to take wickets with both old and new ball made him an absolute regulation in the Indian team
Yes, his fitness and loss of form kept him out of the team for almost two years, but when he returned in 2006, he never looked back.
What was most impressive about his bowling was his accuracy and his ability to keep his head calm in the death overs
Not only he had this unique ability to reverse the ball, but he had a lot of slower variations which helped him pick a lot of wicket in sub-continent conditions
He played an essential role in India’s successful 2011 World Cup campaign and was the joint highest wicket-taker with 21 wickets
That’s why – Zaheer Khan, with 311 Test wickets ( 92 tests ), 282 ODIwickets ( 200 ODIs ) features at No.2 on our list
3) Javagal Srinath
Javagal Srinath, the only Indian bowler to play four world cups (1992-2003), was a product of the MRF pace academy.
Yes, Kapil Dev was India’s first genuine fast bowler, but with Javagal Srinath, what we got was actual quick bowling.
In his early years, he only got the opportunity to play in the overseas tours as Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar well settled at the top.
But after Kapil’s retirement, he quickly became the leader of Indian pace bowling both in Test and ODIs
Initially, he only had inswing but later added outswinger and other slower variations in his bowling to suit Indian conditions.
His best performance in the test came against Pakistan in the Eden Gardens (1999), where he led from the front and took 8/86 in the 2nd innings.
As a result, Javagal Srinath, with 236 Test wickets ( 67 tests ), 315 ODI wickets ( 229 ODIs ) features at No.3 on our list
4) Ishant Sharma
Ishant Sharma, once considered as the next big thing in Indian cricket, shocked everyone with his bowling in the historic Perth Test (2008)
Yes, his bowling did not reach the heights that it should’ve, but in the last 3-4 years he has again found the rhythm in his bowling
Ishant much like Javagal Srinath has a high-arm bowling action, and when in song can be very lethal with his height advantage
This trait was evident in the famous Lords test match ( in 2014 ), where he ended with a match-winning 7/74 in the second innings.
Though his ODI career is not that successful, he has proven himself to be an impactful player in the knock-out matches.
How can we even forget his match-winning 2-36 for India in the final of ICC Champions Trophy in 2013
Ishant Sharma, only 31 at this time, with 297 Test wickets ( 97 tests ), 115 ODIwickets ( 80 ODIs ) rightfully features at No.4 on our list
5) Ajit Agarkar
Many regard Ajit Agarkar as one of the best ODI bowlers India has ever produced and for good reasons
The skillful pacer from Bombay was known for his ability to swing the ball both ways with both old and new ball
The fastest in terms of matches to pick 200 ODI wickets and score 1000 runs, he was once seen as India’s next Kapil Dev
Though he made his Test and ODI debut in the same year, he was seen as a better ODI bowler than a Test bowler
His best performances came in ODIs, but it was his 6-41 against Australia in the famous Adelaide Test (2003) which helped beat Australia in their home after 28 years
He suffered frequent injuries throughout his career, which didn’t let him secure his place in the Indian team.
Post-2008, he hardly got a chance to be in the team, so in 2013 Ajit retired from all forms of cricket.
So, Ajit Agarkar with 288 ODI wickets ( 191 ODIs ), 58 Test wickets ( 26 Tests ) rightfully features at No.5 on our list
6) Jasprit Bumrah
Jasprit Bumrah, the least experienced of all the bowlers mentioned, but still features at the top of our list
He runs with a short run-up and can be deceptively quick and that’s why batsmen get late while facing him
In a short time, he has become the strike bowler for India not because he is more skillful than others, but because he has a cool head on his shoulders.
Whether its Test cricket or ODIs he has proven his worth not only in helpful pitches but on dead wickets under testing conditions
His consistent performances have earned a place in ICC ODI and Test Team of the year category in 2018
So, with 68 test wickets (with an impressive average of 20.33), 104 ODI wickets (with an average of 24.43), Bumrah deservedly gets a mention at No.6 on our list
7) Mohammad Shami
Mohammad Shami is undoubtedly the most consistent fast bowler in the Indian team along with Jasprit Bumrah
He consistently bowls over 140 kmph and swings the ball both ways with both the old and new ball
The most impressive aspect of Shami as Gavaskar mentions rightly is his deceptive pace just like the great Malcolm Marshall
He probably has the best seam presentation in the world right now and gets off the pitch movement in any kind of wicket
Shami’s 10-wicket haul in Kolkata or his recent 5-wicket haul in Vizag also tells a lot about his ability to reverse with the old ball
Not only in bilateral series but he has proved his ability in ICC ODI World Cup by taking 31 wickets in two World Cups he played
He is just 29 now and we are hopeful that he will even better his game to in the years to come
Mohammed Shami with 180 test wickets (49 tests), 144 ODI wickets( 77 ODIs) deservedly gets a mention in our list
8) Irfan Pathan
Irfan Pathan made his international debut for India in the famous Adelaide test in 2003 where India emerged victorious
He became the 2nd Indian bowler to take a Test hat-trick against Pakistan and became a regular member in the team
Irfan Pathan had the ability to swing the ball both ways just like role model Pakistani legend Wasim Akram
But, several injuries, dip in form, and Pathan was out of both Indian Test and ODI sides.
Irfan made a return at the 2007 World T20 and was the ‘Man of the Match’ and had a successful Australia tour in 2008
But, after that bad performances meant he became in and out of the team and played his last match for India in 2012
He retired in January 2020 and 100 test wickets (29 tests), 173 ODI wickets (118 ODIs) and deservedly features on No.8 in our list
9) Venkatesh Prasad
We remember Venkatesh Prasad is mainly for his fantastic new-ball partnership with Javagal Srinath in the 1990s
Yes, he was not as skillful as his partner but was very accurate and possessed the skill to bowl with the new ball
He used to move the ball both ways and had a very deceptive leg-cutter, which he frequently used in ODIs.
His gentle medium pace was more suited for overseas conditions, and his five-wicket hauls in Lords and Durban prove that
Frequent injuries, the arrival of Zaheer and Ashish Nehra in the early 2000s cost his place in the Indian team.
However, we must not forget his contribution to the Indian team in the 1990s when India suffered from many controversies.
Venkatesh with 96 Test wickets (33 test), 196 ODI wickets (161 matches) deservedly gets a mention in our list
10) Umesh Yadav
Umesh Yadav is considered as one of India’s frontline bowlers, especially in the test formats
One of the best quick bowlers in the present scene, he gets a lot of movement with both new and old ball
Injuries restricted the early part of his career, but he worked a lot on his fitness, and now hardly misses out of injury
A genuinely skiddy action, he especially dangerous on a sticky wicket where the ball tends to stay low
That is why you will observe that he has a lot of wickets in the low bounce pitches of the Indian subcontinent
Bowled and LBW are his typical mode of dismissal as batsmen misjudge the pace and bounce of the ball
That’s why Umesh with 144 Test wickets (46 matches), 106 ODI wickets (75 matches) features at No.10 in our list