In the 17th over of the South Africa innings, Mohammad Shami was at the top of his run-up when India captain MS Dhoni checked him and summoned Jasprit Bumrah.
The change showed a hint of doubt in the captain’s mind. Shami has been Dhoni’s main man till sidelined by injury and since Bumrah has come in, for the last two months he has become the skipper’s go-to bowler.
However, to his credit, the India captain got his decision spot-on by keeping Shami for the final over of the innings. The Bengal pacer gave away just six runs, an effort which would have won over the confidence of the think-tank.
It’s a situation the team management will be happy about as now they are blessed with the perfect back-up option. The seasoned, but injury-prone Ashish Nehra has been allowed to decide on his own workload and he chose to skip the Wankhede game. So it was crucial that India had a back-up for the left-arm pacer.
Shami is India’s most skilful bowler but despite his impressive showing, his captain and coach will be hesitant to thrust him straight into a World Cup game. They made the mistake by hurrying up his comeback and taking him to Australia at the start of the year, from where he had to return without bowling a ball due to another injury.
Now Shami doesn’t have the pressure to perform straightaway but at the same time is ready to step in, in case of an injury.
Pandya would have handed more confidence to his captain to be a reliable option as the third seamer. Against South Africa, he was the most impressive performer with three wickets for 36 runs. The feature of his bowling being the short ball as he picked all three scalps off that delivery.
On flat wickets, as South Africa had showed in the limited overs series against India at the end of last year, if you have the pace it is a better option than bowling full.
Among the other players on test for India, the captain would be happy with how Harbhajan Singh shaped up. Without being spectacular, the off-spinner made his case with a spell of 4-0-27-0, opening the bowling before finishing his quota inside 11 overs.
For the packed Wankhede Stadium, the real joy was how the Indian batsmen fought back. Shikhar Dhawan (73*) and Suresh Raina (41*) led the counter-attack with a partnership of 94 (59 balls) before being asked to retire.
Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh were left with a target of 55 off 24 balls. The two had the equation down to 28 off 12, and 14 off the last six. At the end, they fell short by four runs.