Javagal Srinath spent most of his career waiting for a support cast to back up his fiery pace. Towards the end of it, he went to South Africa with his old partner Venkatesh Prasad and three young quicks who had all shown they could zip it around in ODIs. Ajit Agarkar had broken Dennis Lillee's record to become the fastest to 50 wickets in ODIs, while Zaheer had put the world on notice with his yorker to bowl Steve Waugh in the 2000 Champions Trophy. Unfortunately, none of the young quicks stepped up, and Srinath was again left waging a lone battle.
India had three dangerous quicks going into their 2010-11 series in South Africa, which was billed as the battle for the No.1 ICC ranking. Zaheer Khan had established himself as one of the best in the world, Ishant Sharma was in one of the best phases of his career, and Sreesanth had been impactful on tours. The downside was that beyond that, there were two newbies. So, when Zaheer was out injured for the first Test, Jaidev Unadkat had to make his international debut and looked insipid against South Africa's batting. With Zaheer back, India managed to win the second Test and level the series.
India went Down Under in 2003-04 with three talented left-armers. Two, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra, had already generated excitement with consistent performances in ODIs - they had taken India to a World Cup final in South Africa - and flashes of brilliance in Tests. The third, Irfan Pathan, was untested but already being touted for big things. Ajit Agarkar provided the experience, having travelled to Australia before, while L Balaji was an unknown quantity. It was Agarkar who shone in the end, bowling India to a victory in Adelaide.
This attack will be remembered for delivering India a first series win in England for two decades, but on paper, it looked quite inexperienced. Zaheer Khan's career had, until then, been patchy, with injuries and dips in form keeping him from being a fixture in the Test side. Sreesanth had impressed in South Africa, but was just eight Tests old; RP Singh had never played a Test outside Asia; and Ranadeb Bose had not played any international cricket - he never did, as it turned out. What the attack did have, though, was pace and raw potential.