THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: If you had watched the first 20 minutes of the India-SA T20 match here at the Greenfield stadium on Wednesday, you would have felt that a Test match was on in coloured clothing under lights.
Arshdeep Singh (3/32) and Deepak Chahar (2/24) swung the ball like swing masters in English conditions. And with Harshal Patel (2/26) complementing the efforts of the new-ball duo, the Indian pace attack looked a potent force as it set up an easy Indian win.
However, it would be foolhardy to expect such conditions in the T20 World Cup in Australia. While the team management would be pleased with the way the young Indian pace attack exploited the conditions, they know they can’t get carried away.
The pitches for the T20 World Cup are not expected to swing and seam as much as it did on Wednesday. The tracks in Australia may favour batsmen while offering pace and bounce to the fast bowlers. It will pose a different challenge to the Indian seam attack.
The news of Jasprit Bumrah getting ‘ruled out’ of the World Cup with a stress fracture has come as a huge blow to India’s chances and getting the fast bowling combination right in his absence will be critical.
In Bumrah’s absence, 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 been under scrutiny of late due to his poor bowling in the end overs. Besides, the 32-year-old has played just 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-match career. The left-arm seamer has excelled in the death overs and on Wednesday, he showed he can be equally effective with the new ball. More than the wickets, it is his ability to move the ball both ways that makes him dangerous. With Bumrah out, Arshdeep should now be a strong contender for a place in the playing XI.
However, the Punjab lad knows playing in Australia for the first time will be a challenge. “Our main motive is to adapt to the demands of the team, no matter whatever the situation is, whatever the conditions are. When we go there (Australia), we will seethe pitches, the conditions, and the dimensions of the ground. We need 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 white-ball specialist and can be effective with the bat lower down. His ability to mix things up has brought him a lot of wickets. But like Arshdeep, the Haryana lad will be on his maiden tour of Australia and it will be interesting to see if his stock deliveries work on the hard and bouncier pitches there.
The big decision now would be to find a replacement for Bumrah. The two standby pacers in the team for T20 World Cup are Deepak Chahar and Mohammed Shami. Chahar, who can wield the willow too, 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 Shami, who last played a T20I in the last T20 World Cup in Dubai, a more suitable option to replace Bumrah.
Not in the team management’s scheme of things in the recent past, the pacer was included in the T20 squad for the series against Australia after India’s Asia Cup debacle.
Unfortunately, he was down with 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 call the selectors take given there are just two more T20 matches to go against South Africa before the World Cup.