Team India will be looking for vengeance when they square off against arch-rivals Pakistan in their T20 World Cup opener at the MCG on October 23 (Sunday). One of India’s major concerns in the lead-up to the World Cup has been their death bowling.
Ahead of the blockbuster contest, former national captains Anil Kumble and Stephen Fleming shed light on what to expect from Indian death-over bowlers. They also discussed who should bowl the crucial overs during a pre-match show with ESPN Cricinfo.
With Harshal Patel being a regular feature in the T20I side in the last few months, Kumble feels that he will be the preferred option, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh being the two first-choice pacers. If that happens, Mohammed Shami could miss out on this crucial T20 World Cup contest.
Kumble heaped praise on Shami’s magical spell against Australia in the warm-up clash. Shami, who was short of match practice coming into the clash against Australia, bowled just one over during the contest - the very last one - but that was enough for him to make a strong case for himself.
He kept nailing the yorkers in the final over and bagged three crucial wickets to hand India a six-run victory. Despite being just a practice game, it will give Shami the confidence he was looking for ahead of the T20 World Cup.
Anil Kumble looks at various options for India in T20 World Cup match vs Pakistan
The legendary former Indian leg-spinner backed Harshal Patel to get a spot in the Indian final playing XI.
“I think leading upto the World Cup, Harshal Patel has been part of the bowling line-up where he comes and bowls those middle overs and then at the death. I think India will go with that approach in my view.
"Yes Shami came and did what he did in that one over in the practice game against Australia, but Shami over the years has been very effective with the new ball."
"If you are looking at Shami and Bhuvi to be playing then both of them have to have that role of knocking off the opposition batters in the first six overs and then look at what Arshdeep does to fill in those overs at the death. If you are doing that, then your batting restricts at No 7."
It will be an interesting toss-up between the experience of Ravichandran Ashwin and the current form of Axar Patel. Ashwin has been in and out of the T20I team but given his experience, he could find himself in the playing XI.
However, if both of them play, it restricts the batting strength. Kumble was also of the opinion that if Shami plays, then the roles will change.
"If Axar Patel plays or Ashwin plays, then one of them, or if both of them plays, then it’s 7 and 8. But then Harshal Patel gives you little of batting . I think India will still go with Harshal Patel, Bhuvi, and Arshdeep. I think Shami might miss out.
"If he plays, then the roles will change. I see the fours overs at the death to be bowled by Arshdeep, two overs if these two play and then Bhuvi and Shami can bowl an over each. Otherwise, if Harshal plays, his role is to bowl in the death. So if he plays then obviously he and Arshdeep will bowl the death overs."
Stephen Fleming weighs in on Harshal Patel vs Mohammed Shami battle
There is no doubt that picking three pacers for the T20 World Cup contest will be a tricky task. Former New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming agreed to this but quipped that all four bowlers have exceptional skill sets and anyone can step up on their day.
Harshal Patel and Arshdeep Singh both have excellent slower deliveries up their sleeve, but Fleming is unsure whether pace-off deliveries would be effective in Melbourne.
While Shami has not played in the T20I format since the 2021 World Cup in UAE, Harshal Patel and Arshdeep Singh have been regular features for the team since their debuts.
“There is certainly a dilemma and I don’t know whether it’s right or wrong but I really like Anil’s summation on having the combination right, making sure that you are really specific with the roles.
"The skill sets there, Patel (Harshal) and Arshdeep has been great when they have bowled pace off. Is it gonna be pace off tomorrow? We don’t really know.
"I think there will be enough there for the skill sets to be effective. I do like Mohammed Shami. A little bit of reverse swing towards the end. So I am not quite sure what is the best way forward. They have got really strong skill sets. Anyone can do the job.”