That Jasprit Bumrah has been India’s singular point of difference for close to eight years now has never been in doubt, but for a system that has taken pride in producing truly world-class pacers in the last few years, it was a massive setback when Bumrah was ruled out of the squad with a stress fracture on his back.
India may have still crashed out of the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia if Bumrah were there, but looking at the way they surrendered to Australia in the World Test Championship Final, it is hard not to look at that as a plausible reason.
However, in two matches that Bumrah has bowled in the ongoing Asia Cup 2023, he seems to have retained the fierce energy of a superstar. In 12 overs, he has given away only 48 runs for three wickets to his name, and the pressure he built from the other end acted as a catalyst for others to take the leap of faith.
“We have been following Bumrah's progress from the NCA, and we are very happy with the report that we have got. Now, we have four quality bowlers, and it is always great to have those options. The problem of plenty is always good,” India’s bowling coach Paras Mhambrey told reporters after the optional training session at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.
The biggest casualty of Bumrah’s return is his long-standing bowling partner Mohammed Shami. Despite being one of the most consistent bowlers in the 50-over format of the game, India have decided to go with Mohammed Siraj, who has picked 27 wickets in the first 10 overs at an economy rate of 4.3 since January 2022. No one comes close to beating that record. But Mhambrey admitted that picking Siraj ahead of Shami was not a very easy decision to make.
“It's not very easy to drop someone like Shami. The experience that he has and the performance that he has done for the country is phenomenal. It's never easy to have that kind of a conversation. But we are clear in the way we have gone about the conversation with the players, and they have shown confidence in us. Players know any decision that we take and they know that it is for the benefit of the team.
“I am very happy with the way Hardik has shaped up, something that we have worked on for a long time. We have been managing his workload, making sure that he is fit and able to achieve what we expect out of him. Once he hits 140 kmph he is a different bowler. From the team perspective, it's a wicket-taking option that we have," the Indian bowling coach added.