Although their opponents in their World Cup opener were Ireland, the India colts weren’t shy of revealing their bowling plans. Batting first, India’s 268 wasn’t massive, but nevertheless, it looked competitive on the big Mirpur ground. From the word go, the India pace duo of Avesh Khan and Khaleel Ahmed were on the job, banging it in short and pushing the batsmen on the back foot. While you would think that the young cricketers had come up with a plan, it was coach Rahul Dravid who had given them orders to hit the deck hard.
“Short ball was the plan; at this level you need it. We needed early wickets because we didn’t score 300 or something,” said India U-19 skipper Ishan Kishan after the match.
As he rightly pointed out, defending 268 on a good track could have become tricky and attack was the best form of defence. Had Ireland managed a couple of good partnerships, things could have been difficult. However, they were done in by some ferocious bowling by the India pacers, despite Lorcan Tucker and William McClintock putting up 113 for the fifth wicket.
Avesh was the pick of the bowlers, conceding just 24 runs and picking up two wickets. He was undoubtedly the quickest of the lot, touching 130kph consistently. Usually, it is difficult to spot a bowler at the U-19 level who can bowl with control and consistency, but Avesh was clear in his mind. The 60 deliveries he bowled on Thursday, 31 of them were banged in short. With the other two pacers operating in the late 120s, Avesh’s strategy helped Khaleel and Rahul Batham to work on the Irish batsmen. Ahmed also pitched 19 deliveries short of length in his nine overs. He kept mixing it up nicely and kept the batsmen guessing.
Any Irish batsman who spent some time in the middle, Kishan brought in Avesh to bowl a barrage of short deliveries. Tucker and McClintock would bear testimony. Avesh got his first wicket with a similar delivery that caught the splice of Harry Tector’s bat and ballooned up. He then duped Rory Anders with a slower delivery for his second wicket.
Though the Indians have revealed their strategy in their first outing, they are expected to get wiser as they progress further. With the following games meant to pose tougher questions, the pacers need to mix up their bowling.