If the two ODIs so far against the West Indies have taught India anything, it is the fact that their pace arsenal in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar is nothing to shout home about.
While Wednesday’s dramatic tie at Vishakapatnam will be remembered most for skipper Virat Kohli’s record-breaking innings of 157, it partly overshadows what was a poor bowling display from the hosts.
In the two matches in the series, the Indian bowlers have conceded 321 and 322 runs respectively against a much-depleted West Indies side missing many of their star names.
The same Windies batsmen who couldn’t buy a run to save their lives in the preceding Test series have gone on to make a striking impact in the ODIs, with Shimron Hetmyer and Shai Hope being the prime examples.
In the first ODI at Guwahati, India went in with a three-man pace attack of Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Khaleel Ahmed. While both Umesh and Khaleel conceded 64 runs each from their quota of 10 overs, Shami was taken for 81 runs.
In the second game at Vishakapatnam, skipper Virat Kohli opted to go with a two-man pace attack with Khaleel being the unfortunate bowler to miss out. This time it was Shami who finished with respectable figures of 1-59 while Umesh was carted for 78 runs, including the 13 runs he conceded in the final over of the match.
The countdown for the 2019 World Cup to be held in England is fast under way and every ODI India play between now and then is geared towards forging a settled unit capable of challenging for the coveted title.
The top-order batting remains exceptional while a few worries still remain about the shaky middle-order. The spin contingent is covered too with the wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, while Ravindra Jadeja provides a third option.
While the pace-unit bears a strong look once Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar are back in tow, question marks remain over the third option, as well as the reserves.
While Kohli has the luxury of playing just two bowlers on subcontinent tracks, a third option will be required on England pitches at times.
Shami will definitely be the frontrunner to take the third seamer’s slot in England but beyond him, the options for Kohli and India are not so mouthwatering.
Umesh blows far too hot and cold in the limited-overs format, as shown by his display in Vishakapatnam on Wednesday, even though he is only in the side after injury to Shardul Thakur. Thakur, in the first place, has never really inspired any confidence in the short international career he has had so far and his latest injury should push him back further in the pecking order.
With time running out for the World Cup, India could be well served by giving Khaleel and even Mohamed Siraj an extended run. Khaleel in fact looked the best out of India’s three pacers in Guwahati and it was a surprise to see him dropped for the second ODI.
The 20-year-old brings much-needed variety to India’s fast-bowling machinery with his left-armed pace. Siraj, on the other hand, has been a tad expensive in the three T20s he has played so far, but he has since enjoyed a fine run of form across all formats with India A and in domestic cricket.
Both these pacers bring something new to the table for India and can very well be developed into surprise elements for the World Cup.
Another option is Test stalwart Ishant Sharma, who has only recently returned to India’s limited-overs setup. He is a bowler with plenty of experience of bowling in English conditions, especially with his summer stint in county cricket.
There are plenty of options to choose from for India, but none seem ready-made contenders just yet. Three more matches remain in the ODI series against the Windies and those would be the perfect opportunity for Kohli to test out his reserve pace strength.
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