Hardik Pandya’s return for Mumbai Indians has raised more questions than answers for the India set-up, given that he is yet to bowl in this year’s IPL. Divy Tripathi discusses how India can manage their bowling resources if Hardik is not a bowling option at the T20 World Cup.
The IPL, which is in many ways the perfect preparation for the T20 World Cup for India, has thrown up mixed results for some India squad members. The likes of Ishan Kishan haven’t got going in the IPL, while Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami seem to be building up well for the mega event in October.
One major talking point concerns the sole fast-bowling all-rounder in the squad, Hardik Pandya. Chetan Sharma, the chairman of selectors, has talked about how Pandya would act as the fourth fast-bowling option in the hands of the team management, but the Baroda player is still an injury concern.
He didn’t feature for his team in the first two games of the UAE leg, before returning against RCB on Sunday. In all, Pandya hasn’t bowled at all this IPL, though he did bowl 16 overs, with some discomfort, during the Sri Lanka tour.
It is interesting to see how the team will deal with the possibility of Pandya the bowler not becoming available before or becoming unavailable during the T20 World Cup. While, the Indian reserves for the tournament include two fast bowlers – Deepak Chahar and Sharduk Thakur – India also have decent options within the squad.
If they decide to go with a combination of five bowlers, they can choose between:
Two fast bowlers, three spinners
The ideal scenario for which the selectors and team management seem to have prepared for.
Barring Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel, who seem to be justling for the same position, the other spinners, Rahul Chahar, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Varun Chakravarthy all fulfil different roles.
This with two out of Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, will bring enough variety to the attack. Along with this, someone like Ashwin can also be used during the powerplay.
Three fast bowlers, two spinners
While, it is an enticing idea to play three spinners in the UAE with the assumption that the pitches will be even slower and lower post-IPL, this could prove to be an act of folly. As of 28th September, each IPL side has played at least three fast bowlers in the UAE leg of the competition.
Some like Rajasthan Royals have even fielded four pace bowlers; fast bowlers with difficult to decipher changes of pace can be lethal in these conditions.
This can also be seen in the T20 World Cup squads of other teams. Australia picked four fast bowlers and two fast bowling all-rounders in their 15-man squad. Pakistan, who have a rich experience in the UAE, have gone ahead with four fast bowlers and one fast bowling all-rounder. West Indies, the defending champions, have three of each.
India can go ahead with three fast bowlers, along with two of their best spinners. Though in this scenario, they might worry a bit their faster men remaining fit for a high-intensity tournament right after the IPL. Their two fast bowling reserves, both of whom have shown their batting capabilities in recent times, can be handy if required.
However, these calls will also be dependent on other factors such as the form of Indian middle-order batters, the batting roles which are assigned to the likes of Jadeja and Pandya, and how India assess conditions.