Bhuvneshwar Kumar was padded up and waiting alone in the dugout close to the nets. He had just tossed the ball he was bowling with to Stuart Binny. The session was drawing to a close and one by one, Rahane, Kohli, Raina and Dhoni left for the dressing room.
There were a few nets bowlers still available, and R Ashwin and Axar Patel were batting against them. Mohit Sharma had finished batting and he too was packing his stuff. Bhuvneshwar indicated to bowling coach Bharat Arun, who conducted Friday’s session in the absence of coach Duncan Fletcher, that he would only take throw downs.
An all-round show in England last summer got the BCCI to name Bhuvneshwar as India’s best international cricketer of the year last November. He had taken 19 wickets to become India’s highest wickettaker, and second overall behind James Anderson, and scored 247 runs, more than Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara. Soon afterwards, he bagged the ICC People’s Choice Award for 2013-14. In less than two years, the 25-year-old mediumpacer from Meerut had become India’s bowling mainstay.
But an ankle injury has turned his world upside down. The bowler would have been the obvious choice in the eleven, but even when Mohammed Shami was ruled out due to a left-knee injury on Friday for the match against UAE, it wasn’t certain Bhuvneshwar would take his place.
The injury had left his tour of Australia in disarray, and when he made a return in the final Test, he looked out of sorts. Over the last three months, he has mostly warmed the bench. Dhoni announced after the match against South Africa that Bhuvi was available but the team decided to select Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma.
It was clear he would now have to work his way back.
His likely contender for Saturday’s match, Stuart Binny, had figures of 3 for 33 against England at Perth in the tri-series. And having scored 44, also against England in an earlier match at Brisbane, Binny has proved he is no mug with the bat either.
Against UAE, India can experiment and both Bhuvneshwar and Binny might get to play, the latter in place of Ravindra Jadeja since he is yet to make a contribution with the bat.
But India may want Jadeja to get going against the inexperienced bowling lineup.
Shikhar Dhawan said there would be no let-up in the intensity on Saturday. After South Africa’s 257-run win over West Indies on Friday, India would know that one slipup can cost them the top spot in the group and that could result in facing Sri Lanka instead of an out-of-form England, or even Bangladesh in the quarterfinals.
SHAMI GIVEN INJECTION
Shami, who with six wickets is India’s leading wickettaker after two matches, was taken for a scan a couple of days ago but the outcome had been kept a closely guarded secret.
A team official announced that he had a ‘mild left knee problem and had ultrasound guided injection yesterday’.