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Team India’s fast bowling department not as healthy as it looks ahead of World Cup

Of all the fast bowlers tried by India in ODIs since 2017, Bumrah is the only one to have an average of under 30 and economy of under 5 runs per over.

cricket Updated: Oct 26, 2018 16:18 IST
Arnab Sen
Arnab Sen
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bhuvenshwar Kumar,Indian team,ICC World Cup
Indian cricketers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah jog during a practice session.(AP)

That late swing which allows the ball to sneak in through the gap between bat and pad, the movement off the pitch which catches the finest blade of the willow, that heavy knock on the helmet that instills fear in a batsman’s psyche - cricket’s enduring love affair with pace bowlers and the zing they bring to the sport has been well documented over the years.

For those Indian cricket fans who grew up in the 90s, watching the Pakistani pacers strut their stuff on the 22 yards touched a raw nerve somewhere. India’s pace battery was no patch on that of the neighbours and of the other top teams. They relied on the spin doctors to do trick in both Tests and ODIs. There would be an occasional burst from the likes of Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Irfan Pathan but the pace cupboard would mostly stay bare.

Things though have changed for good over the past couple of years. The team is blessed with a fine crop of fast bowlers who have come up with match winning stunts across formats. While things look rosy on paper, the time has come for the team management to take stock of the performances and decide who will be the pace protagonists for India during next year’s World Cup in England.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah have been India’s go-to seamers since the ICC Champions Trophy last year and while the duo’s clinical efficiency in line and length is admirable, only Bumrah’s numbers over the last two years stand out.

In fact, of all the fast bowlers tried by India since 2017, Bumrah is the only one to have an average of under 30 and economy of under 5 runs per over.

Another worrying statistic for Virat Kohli and the team management is that Indian pacers have the worst average, 43.59, in 2018 among all teams. These numbers highlight the team’s over dependence on Bumrah, who has in this period been the best bowler in limited overs cricket in the world.

Take out Bumrah from this group and India do not have fast bowlers who can either pick wickets or control the flow of runs. Given the flat nature pitches, used for ODI cricket, across the globe, India would need effective pace bowlers who could do the job during the World Cup. The team has depended heavily on the spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal to pick wickets in ODIs, but with conditions heavily stacked against the spin duo during the showpiece event, India need its pacers to put their hand up and take responsibility.

While Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah look certain to lead India’s new ball attack come May 30th, 2019, Virat Kohli needs to make up his mind on who will be his third pacer. Hardik Pandya hasn’t yet become the bowler who could be relied upon to finish his quota game after game, but his effectiveness as a finisher with the bat could be a quick fix to India’s middle order conundrum.

So, if Pandya becomes indispensable because of his batting ability, will Kohli add another pacer to the playing XI and go in with just one spinner? Horses for courses will be the way to go but India needs to zero in on the third seamer sooner than later and try to play as many matches as they can with the chosen bowling combination.

First Published: Oct 26, 2018 15:26 IST