THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: If you had watched the first 20 minutes of the India-SA T20 match here at Greenfield stadium on Wednesday, you would have sensed that a test match was underway in colored clothes under lights.
Arshdeep Singh (3/32) and Deepak Chahar (2/24) swung the ball like swingmasters in English conditions. And with Harshal Patel (2/26) complementing the efforts of the new ball duo, the Indian pace attack seemed a potent force delivering an easy Indian win.
However, it would be foolish to expect such conditions in the T20 World Cup in Australia. While the team management would be happy with the way the young Indian pace attacker is exploiting the circumstances, they know they can’t get carried away.
The fields for the T20 World Cup are not expected to rock and seam as much as Wednesday. The lanes in Australia can favor batsmen while providing speed and bounce to the fast bowlers. It will be another challenge for the Indian seam attack.
The news of Jasper Bumrah ‘Excluding’ the World Cup with a stress fracture is a huge blow to India’s chances and getting the fast bowling combination right in his absence is critical.
In the absence of Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar will be the senior pro who may be asked to lead the pace attack Down Under. Bhuvneshwar, who has taken a much-needed break from the South African series, has recently come under scrutiny for his poor bowling in the endovers. By the way, the 32-year-old only played three T20 matches in Australia. With conditions in Australia not conducive to swing bowling, Bhuvneshwar’s effectiveness in the tournament remains to be seen.
Deepak Chahar and Arshdeep Singh. (ANI photo)
The hero of India’s win over the Proteas on Wednesday, Arshdeep Singh, has got most things right with the ball in his short 12-game career. The left-armed mermaid excelled in the death-overs and Wednesday showed he can be equally effective with the new ball. More than the wickets, it is his ability to move the ball in either direction that makes him dangerous. With Bumrah out, Arshdeep should now be a strong contender for a place in the playing XI.
However, the Punjab boy knows it will be a challenge to play in Australia for the first time. “Our main drive is to adapt to the demands of the team, whatever the situation and the circumstances. If we go there (Australia), we will see the pitches, the conditions and the dimensions of the ground. We have to adapt to those situations. I hope to do well there,” the 23-year-old said after his man-of-the-match performance in Thiruvananthapuram.
Harshal Patel is considered a specialist on white balls and can be effective with the bat bearing. His ability to mix things up has earned him many wickets. But like Arshdeep, the Haryana lad will be making his first tour of Australia and it will be interesting to see if his stock deliveries work in the hard and more resilient fields there.
The big decision now would be to find a replacement for Bumrah. The two standby pacers in the team for the T20 World Cup are Deepak Chahar and Mohammed Shami. Chahar, who can also handle the willow tree, can be a handful with the new ball. But in many ways, his bowling style is quite similar to Bhuvneshwar. That makes the experienced Mohammed Shamiwho last played a T20I at the last T20 World Cup in Dubai, a more suitable option to replace Bumrah.
Not in the team management schedule in the recent past, the pacer was included in the T20 squad for the series against Australia after the Asia Cup debacle in India.
Unfortunately, he was suffering from Covid and had to be replaced by Umesh Yadav in the playing XI in the series.
Shami’s Covid negative result came on Wednesday. It will be interesting to see what decision the selectors will make, as there are only two T20 games left against South Africa before the World Cup.