After a disappointing campaign at the Asia Cup 2022, Indian cricket team needs to rethink their strategy especially in the bowling lineup, which is lacking sheer pace and penetration, before leaving for Australia next month for the all important Men’s T20 World Cup.
At the Asia Cup, in absence of injured Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel, the Indian fast bowlers looked flat, lacked that penetration and killer instinct — required to seize crucial moments in a big game. Against slightly weaker opponents, they seemed to do a decent job but when quality batters put them under pressure, they faltered.
As always, the experienced campaigner Bhuvneshwar Kumar looked lethal with the new ball in the Asia Cup except the one game against Sri Lanka. But, his poor outing in the 19th over in the two consecutive games against Pakistan and Sri Lanka (he leaked 19 and 14 runs), cost India the game.
There is no doubt that Bhuvneshwar has evolved as a death bowler over a period of time and also fetched success both in IPL and at the international level. But, the lack of pure pace does not make him as feared as someone like Bumrah, which will be a worry for India on true Australian pitches.
During his five-wicket haul against Afghanistan, Bhuvneshwar showed his mastery with swing but as a senior bowler, he is expected to provide wickets with both new and old ball without being one-dimensional.
On the other hand, young left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh also did well in patches. He was accurate with his length and lines in the death overs but he also doesn’t have that pace which can rattle batters at the tops.
Meanwhile, Avesh Khan, who was India’s third pacer in the Asia Cup also had an ordinary campaign. Before being out due to illness, he played both of India’s group-stage games in the Asia Cup but proved expensive, conceding 72 runs across six overs in the two games he played, including 1 for 53 in the 40-run win against Hong Kong.
His place in the final 15 for the World Cup is also in danger as of now.
Once Bumrah and Harshal get fit, they will be the automatic choice for the T20 World Cup and it also seems that Arshdeep-Bhuvneshwar will also be part of the squad. However, none of these bowlers except Bumrah have serious pace, which is crucial on bouncy pitches of Australia.
No doubt, Harshal is a crafty bowler, who relies on his variations, slower ones, cutters to trap batters but in the absence of pace, he could also be lined up for big blows, like when the Irish batsmen tore into him in Dublin (4-0-54-0), or the Sri Lankans in Dharamsala (4-0-52-1).
Former cricketer Harbhajan Singh and ex-India coach Ravi Shastri feel, India can add some quality pace in Indian squad with the inclusion of Md Shami and Umran Malik.
“Where is Umran malik (150km speed)? Why Deepak Chahar (a top quality swing bowler) wasn’t there? Tell me if these guys don’t deserve the chances?? Why don’t Dinesh Karthik get chances consistently?? Disappointing,” Harbhajan said in his tweet, after India’s loss to Sri Lanka.
“I am completely amazed to see how Mohammed Shami has been sidelined by the current Indian team management and the selectors. The Indian bowling hasn’t looked that effective in this year’s Asia Cup and a veteran like Shami should have certainly made it to the squad,” Ravi Shastri said on Star Sports.
“I was quite surprised that you came here with just four fast bowlers. You needed that extra one. Someone like Mohammed Shami sitting at home baffles me. After the IPL he had, for him not to be able to make the cut is, obviously, I am seeing something different,” he added.
However, it seems that both Shami and Umran are not in the scheme of things of this current Indian management. The 32-year old Shami hasn’t played a single T20I after India’s horrific ICC T20 World Cup 2021 campaign in the UAE while Umran has also played only three T20Is, conceding 112 runs and picking only two wickets.
Both fast bowlers would have certainly played more matches in the build-up to the World Cup, if captain Rohit Shrma and coach Rahul Dravid wanted them in the squad. But, things change quickly in India cricket and one might see one of Shami and Umran getting a chance to play in the upcoming home series against Australia and South Africa before the mega event.
Shami had a memorable IPL 2022 campaign with debutants Gujarat Titans, finishing the season with 20 wickets in 16 games at 24.40 as the Titans lifted the trophy in their maiden season. The veteran also has experience of playing in Australian conditions, so he can get the advantage in the pecking order.
The likes of Mohammed Siraj, Mohsin Khan and Prasidh Krishna also give India other pace options. So, it will be interesting to see the choice of selectors, Rohit and Dravid. But one can certainly say that India needs bowlers with express pace to get success in Australia. They also would want a lot of variety to the Indian bowling attack whether it’s fast or spin to choose their best playing XI according to their opposition team.
As far as the spin department is concerned, Yuzvendra Chahal looks certain for the World Cup and with Ravindra Jadeja out with injury, Axar Patel in all likelihood will be there, because of his all-round ability.
However, there is no clarity on the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravi Bishnoi and Kuldeep Yadav. Veteran off-spinner Ashwin gives the batting depth apart from his bowling while Bishnoi and Kuldeep could be that X-factor with their different and special skillsets.
It will also depend a lot on whether India wants to go to Australia with three spin options or four.
Best history and trends of T20 cricket suggest that the sides with a good bowling lineup have mostly won the trophy in multi-nation tournaments. So, India have a task to pick their best-possible bowling line-up for the Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia, scheduled to be played next month.