India vs Pakistan: Mohammad Amir fit, Jasprit Bumrah says anything can happen

The India vs Pakistan ICC Champions Trophy final at The Oval on Sunday could see a battle between bowlers.

icc champions trophy 2017 Updated: Jun 16, 2017 22:11 IST
Soumitra Bose
Soumitra Bose
Hindustan Times, London
Champions Trophy 2017,India vs Pakistan,Jasprit Bumrah
Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir is likely to be fit for selection for the ICC Champions Trophy final against India. (Getty Images)

Sunday’s ICC Champions Trophy final between India and Pakistan could be decided by the better bowling unit. Under the circumstances, the Pakistan camp received a shot in the arm on Friday morning when Mohammad Amir turned up for a full net session at The Oval.

This morning, India were on the road to London after whipping Bangladesh by nine wickets in Birmingham on Thursday. The players spent a well deserved off day.

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Pakistan had their first on-field training session after stunning England in the first semifinal in Cardiff on Wednesday. All eyes were on Amir, who missed the semifinal due to a back problem.

Pakistan’s premier left-arm seamer, with two wickets in three Champions Trophy matches so far, bowled with his natural run-up and pace much to the delight of the team management.

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Amir’s fitness will be tested again on Saturday and Pakistan are in no hurry to rush the 25-year-old because they have adequate back-up.

Pakistan’s bowling coach Azhar Mahmood, who has played a lot of County cricket for Surrey, the caretakers of The Oval, said: “When you go to a final, you want your experienced player, you want him to be fully fit and participating on that particular day.” He added that any hint of discomfort will not leave Pakistan in the lurch.

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“(He has been told that) if he has any doubt he should let us know. He bowled today. He is fine. Yeah, definitely you would go with Amir, but we don’t mind if Amir can’t play. If he is not fit, then we have to move on.”

Amir was replaced by rookie left-arm pacer Rumman Raees, who had come in for Wahab Riaz. Wahab had injured himself during the first group B match against India on June 4. Raees, who shared the new ball with Junaid Khan, took two for 44 to help Pakistan rout tournament favourites England by eight wickets.

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If Amir reported fit, another impressive seamer Hasan Ali, Pakistan’s leading bowler, skipped nets due to a calf niggle. His absence was more of a precautionary measure.

Pakistan’s story of resurgence has given the team enormous confidence.

The lowest ranked team in the tournament has started believing in its bench strength and Mahmood said: “Last match, when Amir was not there, people were worried about our strike bowler not playing.

(Read | England ODI team not ‘finished article’ yet, says Joe Root)

“But the way Rumman Raees came in and bowled, it showed we have the bench strength. We have guys who have such skill and ability that they can perform on any stage. It is just a matter of self-belief and confidence. I think anyone can replace anyone.”

If Amir plays on Sunday, he will supplant Raees.

Meanwhile, India have been riding their latest pace twins Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. In conditions where the white ball has not swung and wickets are great for batting, Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah have won a lot of praise from their captain Virat Kohli for checking runs.

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Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar’s top-of-off-stump line, against both South Africa and Bangladesh, forced the batsmen to commit errors. The success of bowlers is always not measured by wickets taken but by the pressure they create on batsmen to err in judgement while playing strokes. Bumrah has taken four wickets so far.

Jasprit Bumrah is India’s second highest wicket-taker in ICC Champions Trophy so far. (AFP)

Bumrah’s growing confidence stems from the fact that his captain has given him the freedom to explore all kinds of deliveries and the young pacer has used his intelligence well.

Bumrah knows Sunday will be a big day and all the good work so far will be wiped away if India lose to Pakistan.

(Read | ICC Champions Trophy: Jasprit Bumrah wary of mercurial Pakistan ahead of final)

Bumrah reflects the mood in the Indian camp ahead of the final game.

“Not at all surprised to see Pakistan in the final, not at all because cricket is a funny game,” he said.

“Anything can happen in any game, you cannot become complacent or take anything lightly. We’ve reached the final now, so we’ll plan. There are no easy games. Pakistan are always a good side and you have to give them equal respect.”

First Published: Jun 16, 2017 20:59 IST