INDvSA Test series: India No.1 bowler short

Indian Express

Indian Express

Author 2019-09-25 10:42:31

Indian Express 25 Sep 2019 08:12 AM

Bumrah was rested for the T20 leg of the Proteas series, to keep him fit and fresh for the Tests, but things have not panned out as the think tank had envisaged.

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India’s prospects in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship are intrinsically linked with the form and fitness of Jasprit Bumrah, but with the team’s campaign in the two-year competition just two matches old, the loss of their most potent weapon has put a spanner in plans of Virat Kohli & Co.

The 25-year-old slingshot has been laid low by a “minor stress fracture in his lower back,” according to a BCCI press release, but even though he will miss the three-Test series against South Africa beginning on October 2 in Visakhapatnam, there is no clarity on whether these will be the only matches Bumrah will miss, as stress fractures take time to heal.

“The injury was detected during a routine radiological screening. He will now undergo rehabilitation at NCA and will be monitored by the BCCI Medical Team,” the release said.

Bumrah was rested for the T20 leg of the Proteas series, to keep him fit and fresh for the Tests, but things have not panned out as the think tank had envisaged.

Listen to Podcast | Game Time: Is Bumrah a bigger match winner than Kohli?

India’s next assignment after the series against South Africa is a home series against Bangladesh – which includes two Tests – as well. If Bumrah is unable to play against Bangladesh, his next opportunity to appear in Test whites will only be in February-March next year, when India visit New Zealand.

Bumrah has taken to Test cricket like a duck to water, despite being typecast as a white-ball specialist earlier in his career. His tally of 62 wickets in 12 Tests at an average of 19.24 is testament to his prowess, and the way he operates and sets up batsmen has even impressed legends such as Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose.

Bumrah has played in South Africa, England, Australia and West Indies, and taken five-wicket hauls in every series. But he is yet to feature in a Test in India, and the wait is set to continue for a few months longer.

Umesh gets a lifeline

Umesh Yadav, who played the last of his 41 Tests in Perth last year, gets another chance to showcase his credentials. Though he made the squad for the Test series in the West Indies, the team management may have lost some trust in the Vidarbha speedster after his erratic performance on his last outing on a pitch tailor-made for fast bowling.

A haul of 119 wickets at 33.47 is not eye-catching but, at his best, Umesh could be a force to reckon with on sub-continental pitches generally amenable to spinners. In his last Test on Indian soil, he grabbed a 10-wicket haul against the Windies in Hyderabad. But that was before Bumrah came into the Test reckoning and Umesh himself lost form and rhythm in the subsequent 12 months. With the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar currently out of the Test squad and the likes of Navdeep Saini showing promise, the soon-to-turn-32 Umesh needs to make use of every opportunity before the team management and national selectors look past him.

Pitch, team combinations

But whether Umesh gets a chance to show his wares may depend on factors beyond his control. Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami are almost certainties in the starting XI due to their splendid recent performances. Whether the think tank goes with a third seamer or a spin-heavy bowling attack remains to be seen.

With arguably the best Test bowler in the world out of the series, India may opt to play all three of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav, if the pitches are helpful to spinners. This was the formula applied when the Proteas last came to India, with a much stronger side on paper, and were beaten 3-0 with one Test rained out. Some of the surfaces provided for that series — especially in Mohali and Nagpur – could be termed dustbowls.

With the current South African touring party boasting the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander, Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje, the scales on the pace bowling front would be more or less balanced in the absence of India’s x-factor. But as the No.1 Test side, India would be confident of putting it across the South Africans at home, even without Bumrah, on decent Test pitches.

Boost for SA batsmen

Apart from skipper Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and, to some extent, Dean Elgar, the Proteas batting resources betray a largely untested look. Temba Bavuma has played 36 Tests for a single hundred, Theunis de Bruyn has one, while Zubair Hamza’s Test career is just once Test old. Aiden Markram is undoubtedly talented and marked for great things – as four centuries in 17 Tests and an average of 43.80 would testify. But the opening batsman, who will turn 25 during the first Test – plays with hard hands and looks far from assured against quality spin.

But with Bumrah out of the scene, a big headache will be off the shoulders of the Proteas think tank. As impressive as the other Indian seamers are, they can be termed ‘conventional’ and the batsmen largely know what to expect. It is safe to say that there is nobody quite like Bumrah in contemporary cricket.

The South African batsmen can now put most of their energies into devising plans to counter the Indian spinners. Even among them, Ashwin didn’t feature in the West Indies while Kuldeep has been recently omitted from the T20 side as the selectors look at other options. These two will have their own pressures to counter.

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