India’s Bowling Department Needs to be Fixed for T20 World Cup in Australia

India’s cricket fraternity must be utterly disappointed with the overall display by the Men in Blue in the Asia Cup Twenty20 slugfest, now the premier sporting competition in these parts of the Middle East that will in a couple of months’ time soak itself in soccer mania. The FIFA 2022 World Cup is going to be played in Doha, Qatar in November-December.

After a morale-boosting victory against arch-rival Pakistan in the opening clash of the Continental championship at the Dubai International Stadium, and a hard-fought win against minnows Hong Kong, India has fallen by the wayside. It has been outwitted by both Pakistan in the Super 4 round–robin league and also by Sri Lanka, a troubled nation for a number of reasons in recent times. Down in the dumps in the preliminary stage, losing to Afghanistan, Sri Lanka’s fortunes have altogether taken a U-turn; Dasun Shanaka’s team is poised for a title match skirmish with the men in green.


After scoring many victories in the post ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup last winter that was played in the Arabian Gulf because of the pandemic situation in India, the Asia Cup — designated as a Twenty20 tournament because of the forthcoming World Twenty20 in Australia — was the first opportunity for Rohit Sharma’s team to show its mettle in a multi-country competition in which every other team except Hong Kong fancied itself for a podium finish. Apart from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan were not any yardstick pushovers. The nature of the game with its ebbs and flow of fortunes in a short time of 120 balls places the competing teams in different situations; that’s been the name of the game. After the loss by five wickets to Sri Lanka on Tuesday, India’s captain Rohit Sharma was quite categorical saying that not a single team in the tournament was a lightweight and cited the example of the vanquisher of his team, winning three matches on the trot — against Bangladesh, Afghanistan and India.

From India’s perspective the tournament is virtually over, although there is an outside chance of arithmetic of the net run rate variety coming into play should Pakistan go down to Afghanistan at Sharjah on Wednesday (September 7). This is an unlikely happening with Babar Azam’s team carrying too many weapons to bring down a team that has improved by leaps and bounds but still has a lot to catch up with the game in order to make it a favourite against a traditional cricketing nation.

India went into the tournament without its fast bowler and wicket-taker (69 wickets in 58 matches at 19.46), Jasprit Bumrah in its ranks for the run in with well-grounded and capable sides preparing as much as India is for the World Twenty20 in Australia. While Bumrah has been rested to mend is back, Harshal Patel, who has found his calling in the shortest format of the game, too was declared unfit with a rib-related ailment. Bumrah’s absence created a big void; in the sense that Sharma did not have the services of a genuine fast bowler who has been tricky to deal with his peculiar action. Patel has good numbers to show for at 17 matches and 23 wickets at 20.96; the right-hand seamer has the reputation of expertly manipulating the seam in the old ball.

In their absence, the selection committee had to go with the tried and trusted Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who is tossed the new ball in the hope that he will deceive the opening pair with swing and seam. Avesh Khan and tyro left-hand seamer Arshdeep Singh were the others as part of the seam attack; all not genuinely quick though in the ilk of Pakistan’s young tearaway Naseem Shah and Sri Lanka’s new-find, left-hand fast bowler, Dilshan Madhushanka.  Avesh Khan became indisposed to be considered for the Super 4 matches against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. He was below par though against Pakistan (2-0-19-0) and Hong Kong (4-0-53-0). The team management and the selection committee are seeing him as a better bet in this form of the game. After the second match of the tournament, the balance of the team was also affected with Ravindra Jadeja ejected from the team because of a dodgy right knee.

Generally, the Indian bowling could not bring up consistent work with the ball and when it mattered the most. The tournament saw the return of Hardik Pandya as the third seamer; he showed much promise, smartly deploying the short balls in the Cup opener against Pakistan. He was not fielded in the second match against Hong Kong because of a niggle probably. He has carted around in the second against Pakistan (4-0-44-1). He went wicket-less in the power play, just like Bhuvneshwar and Arshdeep and Sri Lanka, pivoted by the 97-run opening stand by Kusal Mendis and Pathum Nissanka went on to score a memorable win. India gave an opportunity to leg spinner Ravi Bishnoi against Pakistan in the Super 4, but was dropped for the match against Sri Lanka.

At the post-match press conference on Tuesday (September 6), Sharma revealed that answers have been found for certain questions in the months and matches leading to the Asia Cup and that 95 per cent of the team has picked itself for the big outing in Australia. He also stated that the home series against Australia and South Africa (three each) would help to complete the process of choosing the squad for the big bash in Australia. The Asia Cup has revealed the chinks in the armour that needs to be fixed, and there is hardly any time for it. The World Cup squad could be announced anytime soon.  Left-arm spinner Axar Patel has come in for Jadeja and he will get maximum chances against Australia and South Africa. While the batting department appears to have been firmed up, there seem to be vacancies in the bowling department

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