“They certainly need reinforcements in their pace department and investment in Shami or Umesh wouldn’t be a bad idea at all in the future”
On Wednesday, India suffered a massive blow when their impactful all-rounder Hardik Pandya suffered a mistimed injury and had to be stretchered off the field. As per the statement released by the BCCI, the lanky all-rounder suffered an acute lower back injury and is being assessed by the medical team. It is still not clear if Pandya’s participation in the tournament is in jeopardy or he will be available? He has been a vital cog in India’s limited overs format and provides some serious stability in the line-up. India would be hoping for his fastest recovery and availability in the matches to come.
A fast bowler’s body is prone to injuries and Pandya did play a lot of cricket in the recent times. Now, how badly will Pandya’s absence hurt if he is not available for the upcoming games is the big question. He has been India’s wicket-taking third seamer and has done the job quite effectively. India doesn’t have a lot of firepower in their pace department and Pandya’s absence will create a dilemma there as well as in the lower middle-order. India’s bowling department need some reinforcements.
India have secured a place in the next round of the Asia Cup after winning both the games against Hong Kong and Pakistan respectively. The journey from here on will be a tough one. India have one of the best bowling attacks in the world at the moment, but the question is – do they have enough back up (in the pace department)? What if Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Jasprit Bumrah get injured? Is there any experienced and effective backup? Of course, they have Shardul Thakur and Khaleel Ahmed in the squad, but both are nowhere near the two strike bowlers.
Although Khaleel did well against Hong Kong, scalping three wickets on debut and has immense potential, but none of the bowlers were effective with the new ball in the first game. Hong Kong threatened to chase down the target and give India their biggest shock of the season. Also, it would be too harsh to judge the 20-year old bowler. India could have easily opted for Mohammed Shami or Umesh Yadav in the squad. They both have a plethora of experience, express pace and decent records in this format. Shardul leaked a lot of runs and nowhere close to effective against Hong Kong.
Shami was India’s best bowler in the 2015 World Cup, and has the skill set to make a batting line-up look like sitting ducks. Shami averages 25.37 in 50 games with 91 wickets in his basket, more importantly, he is more skilful a bowler than what his numbers might suggest. He last played an ODI exactly a year ago against Australia in Bangalore. Recurring injuries has mostly been the reason behind him not being a mainstay in the line-up. Also, he has been a regular candidate in Tests, and did well in the recently concluded series in England. Shami looked in good rhythm and should have been in the Asia Cup squad. The only counter-argument would be the workload, but again, he only played the Test series and could have afforded to be in the squad at least.
Talking about Umesh, he has been a little erratic at times but has done well on numerous occasions. Also, one cannot have all wicket-taking bowlers in the line-up. India do have Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar for that, Umesh could well be the third seamer, who could keep things tight in the middle. Umesh has played 73 ODIs so far with 105 wickets at 32.60, the numbers aren’t that bad and should have made it to the squad. India’s biggest challenge would now be in the second round of the tournament, where the pressure is only on the rise.
The exclusion of these two established bowlers from the squad is baffling. One should also remember; this tournament is acting as a breeding ground for the grandest stage of ODI cricket – World Cup. Shami or Umesh should make it to that squad at any cost, and Asia Cup would have been an ideal platform for them to settle down further. It would be more sensible to have experienced and proven bowlers in the line-up in such a big tournament. Also, both Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah have recently recovered from injuries. India would be at sixes and sevens in case any one of them suffers another untimely injury. They certainly need reinforcements in their pace department and investment in Shami or Umesh wouldn’t be a bad idea at all in the future.