November 12 2018
India has arguably the best batting top order in world cricket at the moment. Either Rohit Sharma or Shikhar Dhawan is always playing a big innings and in case one of them fails, the unyielding Virat Kohli comes in for support. The focus hence has shifted to fixing the middle order which is a major case of concern for India with the 2019 World Cup just around the corner.
But there is another area that Team India needs to address and that is the fast bowling slots. With the World Cup to be held in England, the pitches will be seamer friendly and India will need to go with their best pacers if they hope to contest for their third World Cup title.
Thankfully for India, they seem to have a variety of options in the seam department, something that has never happened before. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav are all exciting and unique in their own right but while they would be easy picks for the Test squad, the same cannot be said about ODIs.
Yes, picking Bumrah is a no-brainer and despite returning from a lengthy layoff, he has shown why he is an automatic pick. Until recently, the same could’ve been said about Bhuvneshwar as well but he has been troubled by injuries and his return has not been as seamless. Instead of focusing on swinging the ball, he seems more preoccupied with bowling short and hitting the deck now and that is not necessarily one of his strengths. It might work against a relatively inexperienced West Indies lineup but a superior batsman would pick his bowling apart.
Ishant and Shami have plenty of experience and India will ultimately pick at least one among the two as a backup but in the ODI format they have done very little in recent times to show why they merit a slot.
In English conditions, where the ball is likely to swing both ways, we need seamers who can do just that. Which is why Khaleel Ahmed is an exciting option. For starters, he is a left arm pacer which already brings in some variation to India’s bowling options. Besides that, like he demonstrated in the Mumbai ODI against the West Indies where he picked up three wickets, he can swing the ball both ways. He got Shimron Hetmeyer and Marlon Samuels out with two deliveries that were swinging in completely different styles. If he can do that in Mumbai, imagine what he can do in England!
Hardik Pandya is another exciting option and the fact that he can deliver with the bat as well, makes him all the more important. In the spin department, India has Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. The Men In Blue are spoilt for choice there but given that the English pitches are more pace friendly than supportive of spin, the number of spinners needs to be limited.
A four pacer approach while it sounds exciting would be too bold for a team like India and in a tournament like the World Cup, a backup batsman would be required especially in the case of a middle order batting collapse.
So all in all, the slots are still up for grabs and any of the pacers mentioned above could still stake a claim for a seat on the flight to England. Whoever bowls well during the upcoming ODI series in Australia would go a long way in sealing their credentials and getting themselves on the 15-member squad.