With plenty of fast-bowling options at their disposal for the 2021 T20 World Cup, India will have to make some difficult decisions ahead of the tournament.
Even after excluding all-rounders like Hardik Pandya and Shivam Dube, India have a spate of pure fast bowlers to choose from. While a few players come into the fold based on their experience, new talent is also knocking on the door with impressive performances in the IPL and other domestic competitions.
It will be interesting to see which way India go with their T20 World Cup squad. Historically, they have relied on experience, but with mixed results. India will be under pressure to get it right this time around, having not won the tournament since its inaugural edition in 2007.
Leading the pack
Jasprit Bumrah: One of the first names on the team sheet, Bumrah might just be India’s most crucial T20 player at this moment. While the batsmen in the side can still make up for each other’s absence, Bumrah currently holds an irreplaceable position in their bowling order. The lanky pacer is one of the best death bowlers in world cricket at the moment, with an ability to produce perfect yorkers under pressure. He has 215 wickets @ 21.83 in T20 cricket already, with an impressive economy rate of 7.03. Quite simply, Bumrah is India’s most important T20 bowler.
Shardul Thakur: India’s most reliable T20 bowler since 2019, Shardul Thakur might well find himself at the centre of their T20 World Cup plans. With 23 scalps at 19.52, he is India’s highest wicket-taker in T20I cricket since 2019. Shardul has also grown in confidence since his Test debut earlier this year and looked in fine form in the ODI and T20Is against England in the build-up to the IPL. The 29-year-old will be one of India’s top-three fast-bowling options at the 2021 T20 World Cup.
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) January 16, 2021
Navdeep Saini: If not for injuries, Navdeep Saini would’ve definitely been on India’s list of pacers for the T20 World Cup. While he will still be chosen as one of their frontline bowlers if fit, he might need to make an impact in their upcoming tour to Sri Lanka. The 28-year-old is a talented bowler who adds a different dimension to India’s pace attack – the Indian skipper and management will be aware of that. He has an impressive average of 18.07 and an economy of 7.15 in T20I cricket.
The experienced trio
Bhuvneshwar Kumar: India’s second-most prolific fast bowler in T20 cricket, Kumar holds a valuable asset: experience. The medium pacer was excellent in his latest white-ball assignment for India: a three-match ODI series against England at home. He does not easily leak runs in T20I cricket and holds an excellent economy rate of 6.98 for India in the shortest format. Given his stature, Bhuvneshwar could easily break into the first XI with strong performances in their upcoming T20I assignments.
Deepak Chahar: One of the most reliable T20 bowlers in the Indian domestic and national circuit, Deepak Chahar has been around for a while. In over 100 career T20 appearances, he has picked up 120 wickets at 22.84, giving away 7.45 runs per over. He has strong bowling numbers in India: 8 T20Is, 13 wickets, 15.69 average, 7.07 economy. He was also among the top 10 wicket-takers at the 2021 IPL. Considering his impressive numbers in familiar conditions, Chahar will be a real candidate for India’s squad for the T20 World Cup at home later this year.
Mohammad Shami: Another bowler in the top 10 wicket-takers of IPL 2021, Shami might be in line for a comeback in India’s T20 setup. However, since he will be travelling to England for the five-Test series and World Test Championship final, he might not get the opportunity to play a lot of white-ball cricket before the T20 World Cup. His experience, however, still gives him a substantial chance of making it to the squad, particularly if he fires in the latter half of the IPL. In 106 T20s, Shami has picked up 119 wickets at 26.47 with an economy rate of 8.40.
Recent success stories
T Natarajan: He went to Australia as a net bowler and ended the tour having made his debut in all three formats. Few cricketers would have had a journey like his to start their international career. He rose to the occasion too, picking up 11 wickets in five games across formats in Australia. While his campaign in IPL 2021 – two wickets in two games – was hampered by injury, Natarajan is likely to get another opportunity in the white-ball formats on the Sri Lanka tour later this year.
Mohammed Siraj: A transformed bowler in 2021, Mohammed Siraj’s story has been a fairytale of its own. A new and improved version of himself, Siraj was incredible at the death for RCB, playing a crucial role in their successful campaign in IPL 2021. He has represented India in just three T20Is so far, but is likely to get a lot more chances ahead of the T20 World Cup. The right-arm pacer has played in 74 T20s so far, picking up 96 wickets at 23. His IPL economy rate has improved consistently over the last three years – 9.55 in 2019, 8.68 in 2020 and 7.34 in 2021.
Mohammad Siraj in the IPL:
2019 – Economy 9.55, average 38.42
2020 – Economy 8.68, average 21.45
2021 – Economy 7.26, average 27.83
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) April 27, 2021
Prasidh Krishna: While Prasidh Krishna was not extraordinary in IPL 2021 – eight wickets in seven games – his overall record for India makes a strong case for him. In his debut series against England earlier this year, Krishna picked up six wickets in three games, including the best figures by an Indian on ODI debut (4-54). He is likely to get his T20I cap before the World Cup, as India look to rotate their side and try all their options.
IPL 2021 stars
Avesh Khan: Another young pacer who had an extraordinary campaign in IPL 2021, Avesh Khan emerged as the find of the season for Delhi Capitals. With 14 wickets in eight games at an average of 16.5 and economy of 7.7, Khan will definitely be on the radar of the national selectors after his breakthrough season. He is yet to make his international debut and is likely to get his India cap on the Sri Lanka tour in July.
Harshal Patel: The top wicket-taker in IPL 2021, Harshal Patel is knocking on the doors of the national team. One of the major reasons behind RCB’s phenomenal campaign, Patel delivered almost every time captain Virat Kohli turned to him this season. He picked up a whopping 17 wickets in just seven games with an average of 15.11. While his economy – 9.17 – was on the higher side, he made up for it with consistent breakthroughs with the ball. While Patel hasn’t made his India debut yet, he has no dearth of T20 experience. The right-arm pacer has played in 103 T20s, returning 115 scalps at 24.53 with an economy rate under 8.
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