The ongoing season of the Ranji Trophy has seen some fine performance. While the batsmen have piled on the big runs, bowlers have not been far behind. Karnataka’s Vinay Kumar on Thursday produced a fine five-wicket haul that included a hat-trick that rocked Mumbai’s batting line-up on Day 1 in their first innings proving that this year’s edition isn’t just about the batsmen.
In Ranji, unlike batting, records don’t seem to tumble too often in the bowling department.
Since the 1974/75 season, no bowler has been able to best Bishan Singh Bedi’s tally of 64 wickets in a season. Bedi, one-fourth of India’s spin quartet had an incredible season, had an average of 8.53 with eight five wicket hauls during his record season. The former India captain is among a small group of bowlers to take 50 wickets or more in a season.
Since the tournament’s inception, the all-time highest wicket taker has changed only six times. Bedi has held the record for 42 years – the longest ever.
Bedi’s season really stands out when you compare the average number of overs bowled and wickets taken by all bowlers over every season.
Bowlers who played between 1934 to 1956 participated in fewer matches due to the tournament’s initial format. As a result we see fewer wickets and overs bowled every season.
Since then, there has been a gradual uptick of the overs bowled and batsmen dismissed. In fact, 2016 was the best year for bowlers in terms of dismissals. However, despite more opportunities to take wickets, no bowler has capitalised and surpassed Bedi’s record.
Since 2007, only Jharkand’s Shahbaz Nadeem has come close. He took 57 wickets in the 2016/17 season and 51 the year before that.
The average number of wickets taken per bowler has also drastically gone up. Ranji squads have expanded to a certain degree, but more players are taking wickets. This doesn’t necessarily mean stand out bowlers like Bedi are having great seasons, but the collective group of Ranji bowlers are doing better.
In the 2016/17 season, bowlers took an average of nearly nine wickets.
Unsurprisingly, majority of these players are spinners. Among the 19 bowlers who have taken more than 50 wickets in a season, only four are pacers. This is emblematic of Indian bowling culture considering three of the pacers have played only over the last 20 years, unlike the spinners, all of whom have played in different eras.
This year’s Ranji season has been littered with big scores by batsmen, but keep an eye out for the bowlers. They might not reach Bedi’s mark, but have not let the batters dominate like earlier seasons. This year, 2354 batsmen have been dismissed so far. Kerala’s Jalaj Saxena is leading the pack with 38 wickets.