With Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel back in the mix, the Indian team will obviously expect more from the bowling unit over the six T20Is ahead of next month’s World Cup in Australia.
Before hosting South Africa for three T20s and three ODIs, India deals with World champion Australia. In the first of the three T20Is at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium here on Tuesday, India will look to iron out bowling issues.
In Dubai, whether it was the T20 World Cup last year or the recent Asia Cup, India’s bowling disappointed. The absence of a potent sixth bowling option in the playing XI hurt the team’s prospects.
Amid all the talk of India’s large reserve of rising stars, the choice of soon-to-be 35 Umesh Yadav as a last-minute replacement for Mohammad Shami reflects otherwise.
Umesh’s T20I career figures are self-explanatory. Since his debut against Sri Lanka in August 2012, Umesh has played only seven matches for nine wickets.
By conceding 219 runs off 150 deliveries, his economy rate is a staggering 8.76. No wonder, Umesh last played in February 2019, against Australia.
Obviously, it would be unfair to expect magic from Umesh. With Bumrah and Harshal returning from injuries, Bhuvneshwar Kumar appearing ordinary in conditions that do not assist swing and Arshdeep Singh looking to add experience, India could find it tough to contain the Aussie batting line-up.
With the bowlers looking capable of conceding more runs than what their batters put on the board, defending a target is becoming increasingly tough for India.
No wonder, skipper Rohit Sharma expects the team to score 10-15 runs more than what appears a par total on any ground in the given conditions.
Clearly, this team relies on the batters, more than ever, to make the decisive difference.
As long as Rohit, a struggling K. L. Rahul and Virat Kohli fire, even by turns, India looks competitive against any rival.
However, the middle-order is yet to firm up with the batting order requiring some tweaking.
Though Rishabh Pant remains the first-choice ’keeper, Dinesh Karthik scores when it comes to reliability with the bat.
Many see Karthik as a proven ‘finisher’, while others underline the utility of a left-handed Pant in middle-overs.
In contrast, Australia appears a settled combination. In spite of missing three all-rounders to injuries and resting David Warner, the visiting team appears well balanced.
An equal number of specialist batters, bowlers and all-rounders gives Aaron Finch plenty of options in the 15-member squad.
The Australian bowlers hold the edge and look to deflate the host by striking early.
If the Indian top-order holds good, expect a fascinating contest.
The teams (from):
India: Rohit Sharma (Capt.), K.L. Rahul (Vice-Capt.), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, R. Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Deepak Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav.
Australia: Aaron Finch (Capt.), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Tim David, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade and Adam Zampa.
Match starts at 7.30 p.m.