India vs New Zealand: Onus on bowlers to pull up socks
Not often do teams come perilously close to chasing a 350-run target in one-dayers. New Zealand staged a dramatic comeback to almost pull off a heist in Hyderabad in the opening ODI of the threematch series on Wednesday.
Michael Bracewell’s counterattacking innings deserved praise. But more than bothering about Bracewell, India will be worried about their bowling performance.
A few days ago India allowed Dasun Shanaka to score big while rallying alongside the tail. And on Wednesday, they allowed New Zealand to crawl back from 131/6. In a World Cup year, that is not the ideal build-up.
The second match is in Raipur, which will host its first-ever ODI on Saturday. A sellout crowd of 60,000 is expected. India’s focus will be on finding the right combination.
While Jasprit Bumrah’s fitness is being monitored to make him available for the quadrennial showpiece event later this year, Mohammed Siraj has certainly evolved as an option for the new ball with his ability to consistently find breakthroughs.
Even Rohit Sharma has come out in praise of Siraj, especially his ability to swing the ball. That’s not all, he has also struck in the middle and death overs. It was only because of Siraj’s lethal spell that India managed to scrape through by 12 runs in the opener against the Black Caps.
While Siraj is closing in on being Bumrah’s partner, Mohammed Shami has failed to come out of his profligate ways.
His inconsistency in whiteball cricket has been a worry as he managed just three wickets in three matches in the series against Sri Lanka with an economy of 5.9, which is the second-most expensive in the team after Umran Malik.
He had disappointing figures (10-1-69-1) in Hyderabad too. With Rohit clearly laying the stress on finding a pace-bowling all-rounder who can bat at No.8, Shardul Thakur could fit into the slot. Unless Shami mends his ways dramatically, he will find the going tough in the lead-up to the World Cup.
Bowling coach Paras Mhambrey accepted as much and said both Thakur and Malik add value to the team in different ways. The middle overs didn’t go India’s way when they fielded in the opener and Malik could be tried out.
“Batting is one of the reasons why we picked him (Thakur). He adds depth to the batting. We will have to see the surface and decide the combination accordingly,” Mhambrey said on Friday.
About Malik, Mhambrey said: “The way he has progressed, it is very heartening to see. Pace does matter and adds a different dimension to the attack. He is very much in the scheme of things as far as World Cup is concerned. He adds a lot of value to the team.
“Bumrah is a unique bowler and he is irreplaceable, let’s accept that fact. On the other side, it gives an opportunity for others to be tested at this level,” the bowling coach added.
He didn’t forget to laud Siraj’s efforts. “He is a very important member of the team, not only for World Cup but beyond that as well,” he said.
No one’s really sure how the pitch will behave, although Mitchell Santner suspects it has more bounce than Hyderabad. That could mean India might try out Malik. But will they bench Shami or leave out Thakur?
The dew is expected to play its part with temperatures dropping in the evening. Chasing will be the safer option.