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India's pace predicament: Bumrah yes, but who else?

Indian pace resources are looking thin for its next ICC assignment.
Last Updated : 25 April 2024, 15:59 IST
Last Updated : 25 April 2024, 15:59 IST

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Bengaluru: Five months ago, there was a more-than-valid argument to be made for Indians possessing the greatest bowling unit in the history of World Cups.

The World Cup in question was the 50-over in-house event, and it saw India’s pacers come away with the best average, strike rate and economy for any team’s pace unit in the series. The spinners topped the same event for all the same metrics.

Basically, no bowing combine in the history of 50-over World Cups had done better than India’s 2023 batch. The coming together of stringency, variations, ruthlessness and a joi de vivre for the craft forged an unheralded combination.

The pace unit read: Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj. The spin combine read: Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.

All things were good, save for the fact that they lost the final to Australia. Still, no one could blame the bowling unit. Actually, one couldn’t point fingers at the batters either.

November 19 just happened to be Australia’s day.

Trauma aside, another World Cup is on the horizon. India’s first game in the T20 World Cup in the Americas is on June 5.

For that, their batting options look stacked, the wicketkeeping probables are posing a problem of plenty, and there are enough and more quality spinners and spinning all-rounders to make up ‘Tweakers’ XI’.

There is, however, a potentially insidious predicament lying in wait. It sounds absurd, but Indian pace resources are looking thin for its next ICC assignment.

Given the Indian Premier League trend where captains have used seamers more than they have spinners, it would seem like the selectors have plenty of options to rely on, but an objective evaluation of statistics reveals that Jasprit Bumrah is the only pacer with the tickets for the flight to New York.

Bumrah is in the midst of arguably the greatest bowling performance (after eight games) ever in the IPL with 13 wickets from eight games at an average of 15.69, a strike rate of 14.7 and an economy of 6.37. So, he is taken care of. The rest, not so much.

With Mohammed Shami ruled out because of an injury, and Mohammed Siraj bowling about as poorly as Royal Challengers Bengaluru are playing, the famed trio from not so long ago looks fragmented.

Going by current form, the selectors may not want to gamble with Siraj -- even if his experience and energy make him stand out from the others in the reckoning -- but what are their choices? 

Mukesh Kumar, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel, Mohit Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, and Khaleel Ahmed are the names which come up typically because they have all played for India in the past but none of their performances this IPL season inspires confidence. 

Well, one could argue that the first time we won a T20 World Cup we did so with RP Singh, S Sreesanth, Joginder Sharma and Irfan Pathan as the pacers, but times were different. The margin for error was more since the batters hadn’t yet evolved into the current-day beasts they are.

These days, batters hinge on the reckless and have made a virtue of it. Bowlers have no place to hide so picking the right combination becomes imperative.

One might be tempted to look at the back-in-form T Natarajan then or Sandeep Sharma; Mohsin Khan and Tushar Deshpande; or even Yash Thakur and Harshit Rana. But that would be too big a gamble.  

The selectors would have loved to have more look at Lucknow Super Giants' tearaway Mayank Yadav but the pacer has been sidelined following a side strain after just two matches. Besides being young and possessing unsettling pace, the Delhi product is exceptional with the lines and lengths he hits.

Up until the point LSG issued a statement regarding ‘soreness in the lower abdominal area’ for Mayank, he was a potential shoo-in to the Indian team. Inexperience be damned. Breathtaking speed can make up for it.

But he has missed a fair few games so far, and he wasn’t played against Chennai Super Kings as promised so there are only so many games for him to prove his fitness.

Hardik Pandya will be there, but he hasn't bowled bowled much and hasn't been encouraging except the fact that he hasn't broken down yet.  

So, for now, it’s Bumrah and hardly anyone else.

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Published 25 April 2024, 15:59 IST

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