Out of all the multiple possibilities in this world, this was the one that India prayed hard to never come true. Jasprit Bumrah is the best bowler in the country by a mile. A back-stress fracture, one that possibly derails the pacer’s comeback by at least another three months. But what about the T20 World Cup, what about the hopes of India scoring that World Cup under Rohit Sharma’s leadership?
Well, it is back to square one. India have already played one marquee tournament – the Asia Cup – without Bumrah and are on the verge of playing a global T20 event without him. The repercussions are immense, India will go into the tournament without a bowler who can hit the 140kmph. Nor do they have a bowler who can hit the length hard.
Plus, Bumrah’s ability to churn out yorkers like it was his stock delivery is perhaps unrivalled. To think of how the pacer played the entirety of the Indian Premier League, even when Mumbai Indians were knocked out of the tournament well before. It is business at the end of the day but maybe is there a fine line that BCCI can tread through carefully?
It doesn’t end there. India’s lack of all-phase bowlers is one that will heckle them the most, and to just reflect on how the management rushed him to play the eight-over contest against Australia earlier in the week, it all makes the fans livid.
There is no replacement for Bumrah, at least on paper. But is there a way that India could field a bowling attack that could cover all bases?
India’s various combinations to fill the Bumrah-void
Option 1: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh, Hardik Pandya
On paper, this probably might be India’s strongest XI going into the T20 World Cup in Bumrah’s absence. Interesting to note that Bumrah has been used immensely by the management during the middle-overs and at the death.
Having Arshdeep and Harshal in the playing XI might help India solve two of their biggest worries – a wicket-taker in the middle-overs and someone who can nail the yorkers at the death.
Hardik Pandya’s role in this combination only becomes more pronounced given that he is the second bowler who can bowl at 140kmph and above. If India are to insist on experience, this might be the closest to a mix of youth and experience that they can have.
Cons: The obvious con in fielding such a combination is Bhuvneshwar’s form. The right-arm pacer has been a dismissal version of himself at the death. Barring that, this line-up will also have to rely on the batting efforts of Harshal and Bhuvneshwar, which again might be a worry.
Option 2: Arshdeep Singh, Mohammed Shami, Harshal Patel, Hardik Pandya
An outside chance but there is a high possibility that India might go back to Mohammed Shami, purely because of his experience and his form from the 2022 IPL. Shami sure has picked up 11 wickets in the powerplay phase during IPL 2022 with an economy rate of 6.6, but his numbers at the death – an average of 19 and an ER of 10.9 – is only worrisome.
But bringing in Shami, will bring in another 140+kmph, something that the team could do with in Australian conditions. Arshdeep can be used early on in the innings with the new ball, to take advantage of the swinging conditions with Harshal purely functioning in the middle-overs.
Cons: With Shami, Arshdeep and possibly Chahal in the playing XI, India’s batting depth will be comparatively weak, which will force a change of methodology at the top of the order. But the biggest con in featuring the 32-year-old will be that he hasn’t featured in a T20I since the end of the T20 World Cup in 2020.
Option 3: Arshdeep Singh, Deepak Chahar, Harshal Patel, Hardik Pandya
As left-field as it might be, India could very well feature this playing XI come to the first clash against Pakistan. In case you didn’t forget, this was pretty much the lineup that started in the first T20I against South Africa, where they blew the visitors away to smithereens. With Deepak Chahar, India will kill two birds with one stone – a) batting depth and b) new ball prowess.
The rest of the bowling unit remains in the same shape. Arshdeep will bowl an over in the powerplay, like how Bumrah does with the onus on Hardik Pandya to support Harshal in the middle-overs.
Cons: In this case, India will lack experience, given that none of the three bowlers have played a whole lot for India. Neither Chahar or Harshal has the potential to bowl at 140kmph on a constant basis, making it a one-dimensional bowling unit.
Can India bring someone from outside the squad?
During his stint in the Indian colours, Avesh might have been the fourth-worst bowler but he is perhaps the one closest India could get to Bumrah, in terms of package. What we essentially mean by that, is that Avesh can bowl at high pace, clocking 145kmph with ease, can bowl at the death with some menace and nail yorkers. Plus, the fact that India could even use him as a middle-over enforcer is an option that is enticing.
Another exciting talent – Umran Malik is the fastest bowler in the country. But he has only played a handful of games and even in those, he didn’t leave an impact that anyone can defend. The only question is, does the management trust the right-arm speedster so much that they can bring him straight into the playing XI for the T20 World Cup?
Natarajan, you surely remember him, right? True that the left-arm pacer isn’t the best option in the powerplay, he can definitely be a potent option at the death. In IPL 2022, the Tamil Nadu pacer has picked up 10 wickets in the final phase of the innings, striking every 11 deliveries. But the catch with him apart from the injuries is his form. His average in the middle-over phase (47) is something that will be a red-flag for India.
Mohammed SirajSiraj had the worst IPL by a country mile. In fact, he conceded the most sixes in a single edition of the IPL. But what he brings is a package that will work well in Australia. Not only does he hit the hard length but he also has the ability to reverse the ball, a tool that might be heavily useful in the middle-overs, like Haris Rauf showed in the Big Bash League. Also, Siraj can nail a Yorker and given that he has previously played in Australia, he is an option that India could benefit from.