India vs South Africa: Not Ishant, not Ashwin - Numbers reveal India’s biggest weapon in home Tests
India were dealt a huge blow when Jasprit Bumrah was out injured. Umesh Yadav was named his replacement and there was great merit in this selection. As far as the numbers are concerned, Umesh is one of the premier fast bowlers for India, especially in home conditions. Not only is Umesh one of the 7 pacers to take 50 or more wickets in India in Tests, he boasts of the best strike-rate on the list.
Ever since 2017, his career has been on an upward swing, more so in subcontinent conditions. He averages 22.62 in home Tests since 2017, which is almost 66% better than his average before 2017 (34.45).
Also, he has the 2nd best bowling strike-rate in India since 2017 among the bowlers with 10 or more wickets.
Several times in the past, the fast-bowler has acknowledged that being benched while in good rhythm doesn’t help when a rare opportunity then comes along for a bowler whose instinct is to pick wickets than keep things tight. In South Africa early last year, as Bumrah made a splash on debut, Yadav didn’t get a chance.
“The competition (among pacers) is good, and it’s good for us. That’s the way we think… We keep trying to get better, and that helps the team too. If there is healthy competition, it’s exciting. One needs to take on the challenge and focus on the bowling,” he told ESPNcricinfo in August.
“It’s really all about the mindset. Sometimes negative thoughts creep in, and the idea is to take that out. That’s what I did, clear my thoughts,” he further added.
Hence, Kohli and Shastri have a decision to make. Should they play three spinners, as has been the norm in home Tests over the past few years, or should they include Umesh and play him along with Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami? His numbers are brilliant and this could be his chance to stake his claim for higher honours.