Team balance test in Jasprit Bumrah’s absence
Rohit Sharma’s men left for the T20 World Cup in the early hours of Thursday without their 15th member since the team management is yet to decide on Jasprit Bumrah’s replacement. The premier fast bowler was ruled out of the showpiece event following a stress reaction in the back.
In a media release on Monday evening, the BCCI said that the decision was taken after a detailed assessment and in consultation with specialists. He is the second important player to miss the tournament after all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who has undergone knee surgery.
Both Rohit and head coach Rahul Dravid have made it clear that they are in no hurry to arrive at a decision since they have time until October 15. Mohammed Shami, who missed the T20I series against Australia and South Africa, is the front-runner and is currently at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore where his fitness is being assessed.
Bumrah’s unavailability has put the team in a spot of bother with Dravid having been forced to go back to the drawing board and redraw plans. His presence makes a world of difference to the bowling unit and the outcome of the match. The toe-crushing yorkers, the discipline and variation Bumrah brings to the table always make him a stand-out performer. No wonder India’s death bowling frailties were laid bare during the recent twin T20I home series.
How much India will miss Bumrah in Australia can’t be assessed just by mere statistics. Nevertheless, he is India’s premier performer in the Powerplay, middle overs and the death with an economy of 5.57, 5.80 and 8.15, respectively, since January 2020. Bhuvneshwar Kumar comes a distant second during the same period with an economy of 5.83, 7.21 and 10.03, respectively.
Shami is far off when considered to Bumrah though he has a better strike-rate in the Powerplay overs. His economy rate hovers around the 8.00 mark during the first six overs and drops to 11.42 and 9.62 in the middle and death overs, respectively.
Former India batting coach Sanjay Bangar is pinning hopes on India’s batting. “The spirits will be really high. I’m pretty sure that the Indian team must have taken a lot of positives from the way the batting has performed. Harsh lesson for the bowlers, but it’s good that it has come in this phase wherein there is time to think about it, re-draw their plans, go forward and play their best cricket in Australia,” Bangar said on Star Sports show ‘Cricket Live’.
Bumrah’s absence has opened a debate on whether India need to go with a batting-heavy playing XI or include five specialist bowlers to strike the right balance. Various options are being worked upon, including strengthening their batting with the inclusion of Deepak Hooda, who can bowl a few overs of offspin if one of the regulars is having an off day. Four specialist bowlers along with Hardik Pandya can be a viable option in such circumstances.
While Virat Kohli’s return to form is the silver lining India had been hoping for, this batting line-up can go berserk in any condition. The batters can thus compensate by scoring extra runs for any letdown in bowling. If any one among the top four can strike form, it will open up a window of opportunity for the others.
With Dinesh Karthik now being a certainty in the team, India could also explore with five bowlers and Pandya. This combination would certainly provide Rohit with more bowling options.
But who will India turn to in case of a Super Over? Perhaps the team management will have to play it by ear depending on the best performer on any given day.
Playing without Bumrahisn’t new to India. Since 2020, the pacer has played just 18 of India’s 59 T20Is. India have won 27 games and lost 13 during this period.
How the Indian pacers adjust to the wickets could make a huge difference to their fortunes. Till then survive on the hope that someone will come to their rescue and make up for Bumrah’s absence.