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Siraj, Yadav Complete India’s World-Class Attack Ahead of ODI World Cup

Mohammed Siraj's heroic spell helped Team India restrict Sri Lanka at merely 50 runs

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India is still to recover from how this manic Sunday ended for its cricket team!

It was the most unexpected turn of events as India demolished Sri Lanka in double quick time to become the Asia Cup champion again.

India as the defending Asia Cup ODI champion played like one in the final on Sunday as the made mincemeat of the 2022 Asia Cup T20I champion, Sri Lanka. It was an unbelievable performance by India’s new ball bowlers and once again highlighted the fact that they are a side to watch out for at the upcoming ODI World Cup.

https://x.com/StarSportsIndia/status/1703361124824228295?s=20

The Asia Cup Success

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The heroes of the Asia Cup triumph were obviously the Indian bowlers, especially the effervescent Mohammed Siraj and the magical Kuldeep Yadav. Together this pair destroyed teams throughout the past week.

The success of Siraj and Yadav is also a success for the team management who had used them specifically in the ODI format rather than the T20I format over the past 18 months. If you cast your mind back this pair was used majorly in the ODI format and not so much in the T20I format. In a way the team think-tank had already identified these two as India’s key performers in the ODI format.

Siraj was also used in the Test match format and Yadav played a key role in winning a Test in Bangladesh. The duo along with Shardul Thakur were kept out of India’s T20I squad for last year’s World Cup in Australia. Even now of the three only Yadav played recently in the T20I format in West Indies.

Mohammed Siraj's heroic spell helped Team India restrict Sri Lanka at merely 50 runs

File image: Kuldeep Yadav

(Photo: PTI)

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The Shift In Gear

But overall if you see there is a clear plan in how the bowlers have been identified for various formats. There is specific focus on ensuring that there is a clear demarcation in which bowlers are being picked for the ODIs and which ones get selected for the T20I squad. This may not make sense when squads are selected, but somewhere down the line the demarcation will start yielding dividends as India found out during the ongoing Asia Cup!

Yadav, Siraj and to some extent Thakur have been part of the second string ODI squads which played bilateral series while the big boys were away either resting or preparing for the T20 World Cup. Then after the disaster of the T20 World Cup, the focus shifted completely to the ODI format and the showpiece event this year. You immediately saw a complete shift in narrative as the Indian think-tank managed to get their ODI squad in place.

There has been a lot of criticism in the way India’s think-tank have juggled the squads around across various formats. But you can finally see light at the end of the tunnel.

Mohammed Siraj's heroic spell helped Team India restrict Sri Lanka at merely 50 runs

File Image: Mohammed Siraj 

Pankaj Nangia
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You can see that there was a method to the madness and it sometimes takes some time to put your house in order as the Indians found out during the Asia Cup. India juggled their squads in bilateral white-ball series especially in ODIs to get their perfect balance.

This may seem sacrilege to the outsiders but within the team management there was a clear plan to prepare for any eventuality. Now with the entire squad, barring Shreyas Iyer and Axar Patel fully fit, the plan seems to have worked out for now.

When you cast your attention to other major competing sides at the ODI World Cup, India seems to have it better relatively when it comes to injuries to key players. This is also a measure of the kind of effort that was put in behind the scenes to manage the workload of the players judiciously. The Indian team management was always clear about the bigger prize in front of them and were prepared to take risks along the way.

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It could be seen in the way Siraj ran in with purpose in helpful conditions at the R Premadasa Stadium. Throughout the past week, Siraj did not have much to do as Yadav and then Thakur did most of the damage. But Siraj’s powerplay records in ODI cricket since the start of 2022 tells you just how big an impact he has had in the format.

Kuldeep-Shardul Shut Down Criticism 

There has been much debate on the role of Yadav and Thakur in ODI cricket. Yadav has shut down all the critics with his performance during the Asia Cup. Similarly, if you see his record in the middle overs in ODI cricket you realise just how big a difference he makes in the middle overs with his guiles!

Thakur too has been the centre of much debate with regards to his place in the ODI XI. He picked up crucial wickets against Bangladesh and later gave good support to Axar Patel in the tricky chase during the same game. He may have fallen short but Thakur is a key player in the ODI set-up. The Indian team management is rightly concerned about their lower-order batting and hence the likes of Thakur become crucial in the bargain. Thakur’s bowling in the middle overs and his record since the start of 2022 also makes it mandatory for him to be picked at number eight in the XI.

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Over the past week while all the attention has been paid to the returning players, the real heroes were the bowlers. More specifically it was the likes of Yadav to some extent Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah who stole the show for India in the lead-up to the final. The batting exploits of Virat Kohli, skipper Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul, and Ishan Kishan were a huge bonus.

The real worry in the lead-up to the World Cup was about India’s bowling and whether they will be able to withstand the onslaught from the other sides. Thankfully, we can report that India’s bowling appears in fine fettle. If anything, India has a well-rounded world class attack in the ODI format. They have everything you can ask for:

  • Bumrah: Strikes early and towards the end with his unique action

  • Siraj: Strikes early and is a genuine wicket-taker in the powerplay

  • Thakur: Contains batters and picks wickets in the middle overs

  • Yadav: Weaves magic with his wrist spin in the middle overs

  • Jadeja: Accurate to a fault and bottles batters up

  • Pandya: Bowls with fire and hurries batters in the middle overs to take key wickets

  • Shami: Experienced operator who can strike up front

  • Patel: Another accurate bowler who can peg away

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This kind of variety in bowling is hard to match. You could argue that they miss a left-arm paceman or a right-arm leg-spinner or even an off-spinner. But the fact is you cannot be everyone in your line-up. This is the best Indian attack possible and is also one of the best in the world.

Siraj’s spell in the final of the Asia Cup on Sunday was an icing on the cake. There was just no stopping the young man as he ran amok. It was as if he was waiting to make a mark after all the others had made a mark in the tournament. Siraj saved the best for the last and made a telling statement.

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This was the best possible way to end a campaign that began with a lot of trepidation amongst Indian fans and ended on a high with a lot of hope for the upcoming World Cup. The only thing that India and its supporters need to do going forward is not get too carried away.

Always remember what the venerable Clint Eastwood’s son Scott said famously: You never believe your own hype. As quick as somebody can be 'the guy' in Hollywood, he can be gone the next minute.

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