India vs England: ‘Playing six batsmen at Lord’s will be a conservative move’
He is pretty much India’s fastest bowler, but Umesh Yadav must have felt like a caged tiger on the Test series in South Africa in January.
Having soldiered on during the long phase of home Tests in 2016-17, playing 12 out of 13 Tests, and travelled to the West Indies before that and faced Sri Lanka away and at home – he took 35 wickets at home, then six each against Sri Lanka in the two legs from five Tests -- Umesh was a frustrated figure as the team management thrust Jasprit Bumrah into the new ball role along side Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
The combination was an instant hit against the Proteas, enabling India to take 20 wickets in each of the three Tests – India lost the series 1-2 – and Umesh did not get the chance to let it rip on some of the fastest pitches in the world.
However, having warmed up in the one-off Test against Afghanistan in June, and the thumb fracture to Jasprit Bumrah in the first T20 against Ireland, at the start of the tour, has made Umesh a part of the three-man Test attack, with Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami.
Umesh Yadav bowled well in parts in the Edgbaston Test. India’s three pacers shared 12 wickets at an average of 23. Umesh, who returned 1/56 from 17 overs in the first innings, bowled only seven overs in the England second innings but took the two crucial wickets of Sam Curran, who blasted 63, and Adil Rashid (16), who featured in a 48-run eighth wicket stand that proved decisive in the end.
On Tuesday, Umesh bowled really quick, troubling all India batsmen at the Lord’s nets. “Top ball”, Virat Kohli commented after one delivery beat the Indian skipper.
Bowling coach Bharath Arun was pleased with Umesh’s showing in Edgbaston. “I can’t really divulge details of the conversation we had. Umesh is at his best when he is bowling quick. In the first innings, he was more looking at bowling to one line. But in the second innings, he was being himself.”
The former India pacer was happy the bowlers had discovered the fuller length they needed to bowl in England to get the ball to swing, key to getting wickets.
“I can’t ask for anything better. There is still room for improvement, but the bowlers did a good job. There was huge improvement from the first innings to the second.”
Bumrah tested himself during the Edgbaston Test with some light bowling and had a more intense session during the nets on Tuesday. However, Arun said he was far from ready to make a comeback.
“He’s bowling fit right now, but it’s too early to put him into a game-like situation. The plaster on his hand needs to come off first. He’s out of contention for the second Test.”
There have been suggestions from experts and former players that India may benefit if they play an extra sixth batsman. However, Arun felt that India’s focus being winning, it would be a defensive move.
“Playing an extra batsman here, I would consider it as a conservative move. Everything depends on the conditions, and if the conditions are not going to be as (bowler) friendly as it was in the first Test, it makes more sense to play five bowlers.”