A glimmer of hope for Indian cricket fans
A few weeks ago, a long-shot video of Jasprit Bumrah bowling at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore surfaced. It triggered a viral spate of relief and celebration among the fans. From that distance, one couldn’t make out much about Bumrah’s bowling: is the action the same, is the non-bowling arm raising at all, is the pace good, but it was enough for fans to salivate in hope. Then more recently came another video, again shot from a distance with a voice even enquiring ‘is it Bumrah?’, this time bowling to KL Rahul. Once again, a flood of relief ensued. Such has been the extent of troubles in the post-Bumrah world in Indian cricket.
T20I series loss highlights India’s pace bowling weakness
A cursory look back at India’s T20I series loss to the West Indies would reveal that the hosts had to just play out the spin threat of Kuldeep Yadav, and occasionally Yuzvendra Chahal, while making up against the attack’s weak link – the pace bowling component.
- Arshdeep Singh and Mukesh Kumar didn’t let anyone down with their efforts, but nobody was expecting them to run through even a fragile batting line-up like the West Indies.
- In the series decider on Sunday, Nicholas Pooran and Brandon King just had to ensure Kuldeep remained wicketless – the chinaman bowler finished with figures of 0/18 from his four overs – but the home team still got home comfortably, overhauling a total of 165 with two overs to spare for the loss of only two wickets.
- Mukesh and Arshdeep bowled a grand total of three overs between them, conceding 30 runs and taking a solitary wicket.
Impending comebacks of Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna
It’s here that the impending comebacks of Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna during the upcoming T20I series against Ireland assume significance. The result of the three games is almost a foregone conclusion, and would be anyway considered as little more than a footnote in the larger scheme of things. With the 50-over World Cup little more than seven weeks away, it’s how Prasidh and Bumrah, especially the latter, react to the workload which will interest fans much more.
Concerns over India’s pace bowling bench strength
With Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj being wrapped in cotton wool ahead of the big event and Bumrah and Prasidh sidelined due to injury, the bench strength of India’s pace bowling, which was the envy of the cricketing world not too long ago, was suddenly exposed.
- The likes of Avesh Khan and Shivam Mavi are still lacking in experience, while the selectors don’t seem to trust Umesh Yadav with the white ball.
- Jaydev Unadkat has the advantage of the left-armer’s angle and ample experience, but is not likely to give sleepless nights to quality batsmen.
The importance of a fully-fit Bumrah
Bumrah’s pace, unique bowling action, nous and guile provide the Indian attack a definite edge, provided he has fully recovered from his back injury and is fit and firing at his best.
Ireland 🇮🇪, here we come ✈️
— BCCI (@BCCI) August 15, 2023
Managing Bumrah’s return carefully
Indian selectors have previously erred in getting Bumrah back too soon after injury. That’s why the wise men are first assessing whether he can bowl four overs a match without any problems before potentially putting him through 10 in the Asia Cup and the home ODI series against Australia just before the World Cup.
Prasidh Krishna’s potential as a back-up option
Even Prasidh is highly thought of by the selectors and Indian team management for his ability to generate bounce from a length and even if unable to get into a first-choice XI, he will be a worthwhile back-up option if he returns to the level where he was before his injury.
The key role of India’s bowling attack
With India’s middle order still not certain, it may come down to the Indian bowling to keep their campaign afloat. A fit-again Bumrah will be relied upon to make early breakthroughs, get wickets in the middle overs, and also keep scoring in check at the death.
- Shami generally relies on his Test-match skills, not bothering too much about variety and change of pace even in T20 cricket, while there seems to be no limit to what Bumrah can do with the ball. Yorkers, slower balls, bouncers and cutters all come easily to him.
Final assessment before making a decision
Most of the other squads are taking a final shape for the World Cup while the hosts still seem in the assessment stage. But one thing is for sure: they will give Bumrah as much time as they possibly can before taking a final decision. He is that vital to their prospects.
Bumrah’s impact on the game
Bumrah at his best automatically puts batsmen on the defensive which, in this day and age of ODI scores getting higher and higher, is half the battle won. Getting wickets is the best way to curb the run rate, and Bumrah is better than most in that regard.