Jasprit Bumrah is out of the T20 World Cup. India have until October 15 to name their replacement, but their coach Rahul Dravid and their captain Rohit Sharma have both hinted that Mohammed Shami might be the frontrunner.
Shami last played a T20I during last year’s T20 World Cup in the UAE, and his chance of getting game-time ahead of this year’s tournament vanished when he tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of the three-match series against Australia last month. He missed both that series and the three T20Is against South Africa that followed, and is currently in Bengaluru, where his fitness is being assessed at the National Cricket Academy (NCA).
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Shami and Deepak Chahar are the two fast bowlers among the reserve players in India’s T20 World Cup squad, but the selectors are entitled to look outside the reserve group if they so wish.
“In terms of who the replacement is, we’ll have a look, we’ll see, we’ve got time till October 15th,” Dravid said on Tuesday night, at a press conference after the third T20I against South Africa in Indore. “Shami obviously is someone who’s in the standbys, but unfortunately for us, he couldn’t play this series, which would have been ideal from that perspective.
“He’s in the NCA at the moment – we’ll have to get reports as to how he’s recovering, and what’s his status after 14-15 days of Covid, and we’ll take a call, once I get reports on how he’s feeling, then we can take a call and the selectors can take a call on how we move forward on it.”
“We’ve got to get someone in who’s got experience, who’s bowled in Australia, and see what he has to offer.”
Rohit on Bumrah’s replacement
Rohit, meanwhile, suggested at the post-match presentation that India would be looking for a bowler with experience in Australian conditions.
“We’ve got to get someone in who’s got experience, who’s bowled in Australia, and see what he has to offer,” Rohit said. “I don’t know who that guy is yet. There are a few guys in the reckoning for that, but we’ll make that call once we reach Australia.”
Shami has been part of multiple tours of Australia, and has been involved in two Test-series wins as well as an ODI World Cup in which he was among the leading wicket-takers.
He has, however, played only one T20I in the country, though this is unlikely to count against him in a straight shootout with Chahar, who has only played three T20Is in Australia and no international games in the other formats.
Shami scores over other contenders in other respects too. Genuine pace is a quality that India’s squad lacks in the absence of Bumrah – Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh and Harshal Patel have different individual strengths, but all three can roughly be classified as medium-fast bowlers. Chahar is a similar bowler to Bhuvneshwar, a swing bowler whose biggest strength is operating in the powerplay.
Shami’s biggest impact over recent IPL seasons has also come in the powerplay; he was the joint-leading wicket-taker in this phase during the 2022 season, with 11 wickets at an average of 24.09 to go with an economy rate of 6.62. But with his extra pace and ability to hit the deck hard, he scores over Chahar in other phases.
Chahar’s one significant advantage over Shami – apart from having played T20Is over recent months – is with the bat. He showed this on Tuesday night, contributing 31 off 17 balls in a spirited performance from India’s lower order that also included cameos from Harshal and Umesh Yadav.
With no real like-for-like replacement available for Bumrah – a genuine all-conditions, all-phase operator – there is a chance that India could pick a bowler who adds to their batting depth, allowing them to try and make up for what they lose with the ball by doubling down on the aggressive batting approach they have adopted over recent months.
How should India manage Bumrah’s workload going forward?
In a pitch-side interview with Star Sports after the Indore T20I, Dravid had noted the role batting depth had played in India becoming a more aggressive side with the bat.
“We made a decision after the last T20 World Cup, sat down with the group, sat down with Rohit, and we made a conscious effort to try and be more positive,” Dravid said. “We believe we’ve got the quality of batsmanship that allows us to be positive and play a little bit more aggressively.
“And it also means that then we’ve got to structure our squads a little bit around the fact that we’ve got to try and have a little bit more batting depth as well.”
He also had words of praise for the lower-order batters’ display in Indore, even though India ultimately fell well short of their target of 228.
“I was really happy with the fact that we kept going, we kept hitting hard, we kept being positive – even lower down the order, just to see the way Harshal and Deepak, these guys as well, hit some shots for us,” Dravid said. “Really good signs knowing that we’ve got people lower down who can hit those clutch hits, if we need them, in some of the other games.”