In cricket, there is hardly anything as fascinating as fast bowling. The sheer pace and immaculate control give immense pleasure to any cricket purists or pundits. And India are fortunate enough to boast of a bowling attack, which inspires immense confidence. The likes of Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah render bowling a joy to behold. With the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 being just days away, the hype for the same is constantly on the rise. India are not only the defending champions but clearly the favourites going into the tournament. And this time, their team is backed with some solid firepower in the pace department.
India have picked Mohammed Shami, Bumrah, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the squad for the mega event along with all-rounder Hardik Pandya. With conditions being conducive for fast and swing bowling, India certainly have all their bases covered when it comes to pace. Most of these Indian pacers can not only clock menacing speed but also possess great control over their line and length. They all are unique in their own way and bring some serious depth and stability in the lineup. They are also coming fresh from the ongoing Indian Premier League and not short of a reasonable and competitive match experience, which will certainly come handy in the coveted tournament.
Let’s talk about one bowler at a time. Mohammed Shami’s fitness has been a massive area of concern and has been a huge drawback in his career. India’s best bowler in the 2015 World Cup, Shami is widely reckoned for his ability to swing the leather both ways with some unmatched accuracy. Though he had an ordinary run in eight matches in the IPL, but one can expect a bowler of his calibre to step and deliver in such high-voltage games. Shami is a wicket-taker and well armed to attack in the death overs.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s rise against the white ball has been awe-inspiring. His career graph is on the hike at the moment and has been constantly evolving with every outing. The current purple cap holder (for most wickets) in the IPL, Bhuvneshwar has not only added some extra pace to his bowling but also some guile. He has always been deadly with the new ball and has also mastered the art of executing perfect yorkers in the slog overs.
Bhuvenshwar has led the Surnrisers Hyderabad pace attack well in the tournament, which will give him some solid confidence and one can easily say that India will heavily benefit from him. His knack of breaking partnerships and keeping the batsmen under check has reaped fruitful dividends for the team. In the IPL, he has 25 wickets from 13 outings at a staggering economy of 7.07, for a bowler who also bowls in the death. These numbers are a testament to his rise as a bowler in shorter formats.
Does India have a better death over specialist than Jasprit Bumrah? The closest to this league is Bhuvneshwar but Jasprit Bumrah stands apart for his ability to deliver yorkers at will. Jasprit hardly bowls with the new ballbut hass been among the wickets whenever put in the hard yards. Bumrah’s deceiving action and change in pace without any discernible change in action make him a force to reckon. Bumrah delivered a stunning over in the super-over against Gujarat Lions and successfully defended 11 runs against the likes of Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch. The two stalwarts failed to pick him and looked bereft of oomph against his guile. With pitched being flat and batting friendly, a bowler like Bumrah is only a boon to the side.
Umesh Yadav has had a terrific home season after which he replicated similar magic in the IPL for Kolkata Knight Riders. Umesh has looked a different bowler altogether in the recent times and bowled with immense accuracy. His forte is swing and bounce and with Umesh things are rather simple, there will either be frustration or jubilation. He is insanely fit and possesses horse-like stamina. He picks wickets with the new ball, which is like gold-dust in any format. Hardik Pandya is another option to look at, who has been more than handy with the ball.
Although India have enough options to choose from but there is a huge possibility of them being in a state of confusion regarding the playing combination. India will certainly be looking forward to play six specialist batsmen and go for the five-bowler strategy. Now, this scenario means they either play two spinners (Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja) and an all-rounder, which further leaves just a couple of spots for specialist pacers. Also, if they opt for a spinner and an all-rounder, then they have the liberty to play three pacers. But who all will get a go?
Bhuvneshwar has some mind-boggling numbers fro the IPL while Umesh has some good run. Bumrah possesses a rare art whereas Shami banks on experience and reputation. If conditions assist, India can also go for the kill and play all four of them, which will not be less than a fantasy for a fast bowling fan. One thing is for sure, if they play all four then the opposition will have a tough time and one can expect India to restrict the best of the sides to a modest score. But if they opt for balance then at least three specialist fast bowlers should be drafted in the playing XI. It will hardly matter who the three areas all are hungry for success and have proven their worth.
India will play their opening game against Pakistan on June 4 at Edgbaston, this is indubitably the match of the tournament and India can’t afford to step a foot wrong as the level intensity is colossal. A balanced yet effective pace attack is what India should look for and invest in their pace attack, as this is one of a kind.