India need an extra bowler

WELL IN THE MIX: Ravindra Jadeja could bring the right balance India require ahead of the semi against New Zealand. Reuters

In his first five overs against Sri Lanka, Bhuvneshwar Kumar had leaked 35 runs at an economy rate of more than seven runs an over. Still, the Lankans had managed only 50 from the first nine overs thanks to a frugal four-over spell (4-2-14-2) by Jasprit Bumrah from the other end.

This was just one instance of Bumrah making up for another bowler’s off day. What Rohit Sharma has been to India’s batting, Bumrah has been to their bowling. Whether it’s with the new ball or the old one, whether it’s bowling in the middle or in the slog overs, whether you need a breakthrough or you want to put a brake on the scoring rate, he has been Virat Kohli’s go-to bowler. And seldom the paceman has disappointed his skipper. In the face of Mohammad Shami and Bhuvneshwar’s profligacy against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka respectively, it was Bumrah’s parsimonious bowling that helped India escape with less damage.

“No, not at all because I know how difficult it is to bowl, especially at the end,” Bumrah said when asked if it frustrates him when the runs are leaked at the other end. “Some days I could give runs. Some days some other bowler is giving runs. So, you don't try to blame anyone. You just try to help each other, take everyone together, try and communicate, keep things calm. Don't put extra pressure on the bowler because he's trying hard. Obviously, it looks easy, but it is not. We try and help each and every one, take everyone together, and give confidence,” he offered.

India are quite fortunate that they have an all-weather bowler like Bumrah – whether it was a low-scoring affair against South Africa or a run-fest against England, he has separated himself from the crowd. He has had his average days in a couple of games by his own standards, and it’s a tribute to his hard work and skill that he delivers with stunning regularity. However, depending upon him to bail them out on most occasions, if not every single time, is a strategy fraught with danger.

“Everybody is taking a lot of responsibility,” Bumrah said on having only five bowlers in the 11. “That is very good, that you have got extra responsibility. You are trying even harder, your execution is good, you are taking responsibility. That’s a very good sign for us. In most of the games, only five bowlers have bowled, it’s been going like this throughout the campaign,” he pointed out.

It could be lack of trust in Kedar Jadhav or simply the need of the hour that Kohli has operated with only five frontline bowlers. In the last two matches they have fielded just five bowlers and in each of those games, at least two of their bowlers have gone for runs. It’s because of Bumrah’s control over economy and timely wickets that India have emerged unscathed.  

Though capable of beating anyone on their day, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are still an inexperienced side and more often than not you get away with them unpunished despite your obvious chinks, but against stronger teams in the knockouts, it could be a tricky situation. India are also fortunate that Hardik Pandya has bowled his full quota of overs almost every match without conceding too many runs while providing vital breakthroughs. They, however, have to factor in the law of average here for both Pandya and Bumrah.

It is, therefore, crucial for them to play with six bowlers (including Pandya) which means going with one batsman less if they pick both Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. The injury to all-rounder Vjay Shankar and some uninspiring overs from Jadhav in a few matches have robbed India of the luxury of having another all-rounder along with Pandya but with that being the situation, including Ravindra Jadeja at the cost of one wrist spinner is the best alternative left for them. It provides them with the much-needed balance – offers more bowling choices while strengthening their lower-order at the same time.  

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