In Stats: Bumrah, Ashwin, Jadeja, Umesh - Who Will India Play?
Problem of plenty.
1 June 2017 and the ICC Champions Trophy kicks-off in England today with India going in as the defending champions, having won the previous edition of the tournament in 2013.
Virat Kohli’s side have already won two matches since landing in the UK, albeit warm-up games. In the first match, they bundled out a near full-strength New Zealand team for 189, and followed it up with the demolition of Bangladesh two days later.
Too much should not be read into the results of the two matches, but Indian fans will be overjoyed with the performance of the quick bowlers. Even though intensity levels of players are generally nowhere near match levels in warm-up matches, it was good to see the Indian bowlers maintain match intensity, run in hard and bowl as if they were bowling in an official contest.
India will mostly field only three pacers on match day, and the warm-up matches were in a way an audition for the four pacers in the squad. At the end of the two games, the pacers have only made the team management’s selection job more difficult. Jasprit Bumrah was expected to walk into the team, and the remaining two spots were expected to be filled by two among Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar is more or less a certainty now, given his performance in the recently-concluded IPL, his performance in the warm-up matches and the conditions one is likely to encounter in England. For the remaining two spots, if recent form were to be the deciding factor, Umesh Yadav should get the nod. If reputation carries any weightage, then Shami – who is a wicket-taker and a proven match-winner – should be picked.
Expect the quicks to do plenty of damage in the coming weeks. It is early summer in the United Kingdom, and the English summer is quite different to how we know the season to be in India. The met office has predicted a high of 17⁰ Celsius during the day when India take on Pakistan in Birmingham. There’s also a prediction for a brief spell of rain during the day, along with winds clocking speeds of up to 20kph. The weather will be slightly better when the Indian team reaches London a few days later; day time temperatures are expected to reach up to a high of 21⁰ Celsius.
Spare a thought for Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who have an extremely important role to play if India are to go the distance. Both of them are finger-spinners – Ashwin is an off-spinner, while Jadeja is a left-arm spinner – and the cold conditions mean both of them plenty of challenges to overcome.
It didn’t help India’s cause that both spinners didn’t to do too much in the two warm-up matches. No matter how much you bowl in the nets, bowling in a match is an altogether different thing. While bowlers possibly bowl up to two or three overs in the nets – spread across a period of 40 minutes, in match conditions, they will not have the liberty of that cushion; they will have to bowl ball after ball, and possibly bowl several overs in a spell. And that is what Ashwin and Jadeja didn’t have the opportunity to do in the warm-up matches.
Remember also that Ashwin is coming out of an injury-forced layoff; he missed the entire IPL season and has not played any competitive cricket in the last two months. He is the team’s premier spinner and it was important that he got to bowl a certain number of overs in the two warm-up matches. That was not to be; he only bowled seven overs in the two matches.
For both Ashwin and Jadeja, it was not a matter of returns, but about them getting used to the cold conditions in England and the white Kookaburra ball. For Jadeja, the task in front of him was to slip into one-day mode, and discover the rhythm that made him the highest wicket-taker in the ICCCT 2013. The left-arm spinner’s journey to the ICCCT 2017 have been far from ideal; he had an extremely poor IPL 2017, picking up only 5 wickets in 12 matches, while also leaking plenty of runs.
Both spinners also need to clearly understand their roles in ICCCT 2017. Where they were India’s strike-bowlers in the Test series last season, in England they will have to adapt to doing the holding role; from being bowlers who were brought on when the captain wanted wickets, in England they will be used in a role where they will need to kept a check on the flow of runs.
Will they be able to rise to the challenges in front of them? We will know when they take the field against Pakistan on June 4.
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