The Indian cricket team could be considered a fine anti-thesis of the phrase ‘every problem has a solution,’ since in their case, every solution is being followed by the emergence of a new problem – trapping the team in a loop of making emergency amendments instead of addressing the pre-existing frailties.
With Virat Kohli returning to form and KL Rahul scoring three half-centuries in his last five innings, India might have found a solution for their top-order woes and with Axar Patel scalping nine wickets in his last four matches, India might have found a solution to Ravindra Jadeja’s injury as well.
Yet, only a few weeks ahead of the ICC Men’s T20I World Cup 2022, the men in blue are faced with what seems like impending doom, since the nascent problem is bigger than the previous ones – the injury to Jasprit Bumrah.
It has been a bit more than a week since the Indian pace spearhead made his comeback to the national team – following a two-month rehabilitation process. Yet, one of India’s worst nightmares has sprung to life at the worst possible time, with the same injury making another appearance.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has confirmed that Bumrah is ruled out of next month's ICC T20 World Cup and the team management’s focus has now shifted from the problem to finding a solution, that is, a suitable replacement.
Replacing the most lethal javelin in Rohit Sharma's artillery is not particularly a conclusion that can be drawn in seconds, and understandably, we might find the name only after the conclusion of the ongoing T20I series against South Africa.
However, we could predict a list of five probables who have entered the discussions – Mohammed Shami and Deepak Chahar (both are among the standby players for the tournament), Mohammed Siraj (Bumrah’s replacement for the T20I series against South Africa), Avesh Khan (recently played in the Asia Cup 2022) and Umran Malik (part of the Indian squad for the tour of Ireland and England).
Containing runs has emerged as a major headache for Rahul Dravid and his coaching team in recent matches. In India’s last three T20I defeats, the bowlers conceded 567 runs in 59 overs at an economy rate of 9.61 runs per over.
In the last two editions of the IPL, Mohammed Shami has been the most economical bowler for India among the quintet – conceding only 7.77 runs per over. Besides him, Deepak Chahar and Avesh Khan have also maintained commendable figures.
With Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harshal Patel struggling to find rhythm at the death, the team management would ideally prefer to have a pacer with the ability to provide breakthroughs at the backend of an inning, and in this aspect, Shami fits the bill better than others. In the last two editions of the IPL, his strike rate in the last five overs is 9.20.
But, the 32-year-old comes with his imperfections. Be it for Punjab Kings or Gujarat Titans, Shami has often proved to be expensive at the death – substantiated by his death overs economy rate of 10.11 runs per over.
If the management prioritizes containing runs at the backend, Deepak Chahar will be the better option as he has a death overs economy rate of only 7.40 runs per over in the last two seasons of the IPL.
With Siraj's IPL numbers and Malik's T20I numbers being underwhelming, we will take a look at the international numbers of the preferred three - Avesh, Chahar and Shami, for better comprehension.
The first two have recorded exactly the same economy rate in their last ten T20I matches – 8.87 runs per over, but Chahar has the edge both in terms of bowling average and strike rate. Avesh Khan, on the other hand, has conceded more runs than he would have wished to.
His overall economy rate is 9.73 runs per over in the last ten T20I matches, but when it comes to the death overs, the figure soars to 12.48 – effectively making it a head-on battle between Shami and Chahar.
A Combination of Two Factors Give Chahar the Edge
An inspection of the death overs numbers in T20Is highlights the characteristic difference between the two pacers – Shami is a better wicket-taking threat, having scalped six wickets at the death in his last 10 appearances for India in this format, while Chahar has picked up only four. Yet, the latter does a much better job at containing the flow of runs, having conceded only 7.89 runs per over at the death, as compared to Shami’s figure of 10.52.
Moreover, Chahar has already played five T20I matches this year, while Shami’s last appearance in this format was way back in November 2021. With this factor and the economy rate working in his favour, the 30-year-old from Uttar Pradesh should perhaps make it to the 15-man squad.
But Which Three Pacers Will Make It to the Playing XI?
Chahar’s numbers make him the favourite to secure a place in the team, but irrespective of who wins this race, the winner is unlikely to have a significant effect on the team unless the men in blue suffer another setback.
Despite his struggles at the death, Bhuvneshwar Kumar remains India’s most potent threat with the new ball, while Arshdeep Singh has done enough to safeguard his place in the playing XI. Harshal Patel is the only pacer in the squad who might sweat over his place, but statistics could come to his rescue.
In the last two editions of the IPL, the 31-year-old from Gujarat had better numbers than Chahar in every single department, be it average, economy rate or strike rate. Even if we consider the recent T20I numbers of the two, Chahar does have a slightly better economy rate, but Patel makes up for it with his impressive average and strike rate, offering Dravid a more efficacious all-round package.