In the build up to the third Test against England, the India team management is facing a selection headache. Pacers Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma are all fit. Add to it the versatility provided by all-rounder Hardik Pandya and India seems to be facing a healthy competition on the pace bowling front.
In the first two Tests against England, both Umesh and Shami complimented each other, providing breakthroughs at the crucial junctures. Although, the spinners hogged the limelight in the Vizag victory, the pace duo, with incisive spells and their ability to bowl consistently around 140kmph and above, helped create pressure on the England batting line-up.
Shami set the tone in Vizag by accounting for England skipper Alastair Cook in the first innings. The ball pitched on seam outside off, jagged back in to find the smallest of the gaps between bat and pad, breaking the off stump into half. The early setback put England, who were chasing 455, on the back foot. A flurry of wickets followed and the visitors barely managed to keep India at bay, finishing the day on 103 for 5.
Umesh, on the other hand, ended a flourishing partnership between Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes — a fuller-length delivery crashing into Bairstow’s pads before rolling onto the stumps, ending England’s hope of a fight back.
The bowlers came in for praise from India coach Anil Kumble, who applauded their work ethics.
“Very impressed (by pacers’ efforts). The bowlers have been really brilliant. It was not easy because they bowled close to 240 overs in Rajkot and then after three days they had to bowl almost 200 overs. Never easy, you know, going out there back-to-back. You may have five bowlers but still the effort and the way they responded and went about being relentless in their pursuit to go out there and win, was evident,” Kumble said.
It’s a budding partnership, which former India pacer Chetan Sharma thinks, will surely make a difference for India. Sharma said with Ishant and Bhuvneshwar Kumar also in the side, India seems to have ticked all boxes, thus giving captain Virat Kohli a lot of options to choose from.
“Both the pacers have been a class act. We have finally found two pacers who can easily clock 140km, which augurs well for the future of the team. I am very pleased with Shami who has returned from injury a better bowler. After Zaheer Khan’ retirement, I think there was a vacuum in the side with regards to a pacer who can reverse swing and bowl with speed,” Sharma said.
The Mohali pitch traditionally helps pacers early on and thus Kohli and Kumble will be looking forward to another their pacers to provide early impetus. The only question staring them is: Which of the pacers should they pick?