Bangalore: Five innings into the series, and Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann have already taken 30 wickets, despite Panesar not even playing the first Test in Ahmedabad. To put that into perspective, it took Derek Underwood ten innings spread over five Tests to take 29 when England triumphed 3-1 here in 1976-77. For the moment, both Swann (50.7) and Panesar (43.6) have a better strike-rate than Underwood (52.3) as well – the true measure of a bowler's impact. Only the legendary Hedley Verity, who needed just over 41 deliveries to take each of his 23 wickets in 1933-34 has done better for England as a slow bowler in India.
These numbers are important, especially in the context of the nonsense spouted and written about pitches over the past week. The success of Swann and Panesar is an anomaly. Much is written about India being a slow-bowler's paradise, but even for the home bowlers, that's usually involved backbreaking workloads. Of those with more than 30 wickets in a series, only Bhagwat Chandrasekhar (35 wickets with a strike-rate of 49.9 against England in 1972-73) and Harbhajan Singh (32 wickets with a strike-rate of 33.4 against Australia in 2000-01) have struck more than once every ten overs. In both cases, they averaged nearly 60 overs a Test.
By and large, despite the nature of the pitches, visiting teams have trumped India with pace. Worn surfaces where the ball keeps low have made them even more dangerous than spinners, and the likes of Glenn McGrath, Allan Donald and Dale Steyn have outstanding records in India. When West Indies routed India 3-0 in 1983-84, Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding combined for 63 wickets. Courtney Walsh, who eventually took over Holding's role, leads the all-time strike-rate charts (31.6) after taking 26 in four Tests four years later.