The Incredible dilemma of the Indian bowling Attack
The recent form of the Indian cricket team, following the impressive success in the Champions Trophy and the 5-0 whitewash against Sri Lanka, has been phenomenal in the ODIs.
It definitely does seem that the team's bowling attack has struck a purple patch as well. With the rules of the game slowly turning in favour of the batsmen, it is highly impressive to note that the Indian bowling line up has managed to dominate the batsmen's effort in most of the successful matches.
Though this is a fact to cherish, it also presents an incredible dilemma in front of the selectors and the captain. With each and every bowler performing to the best of his abilities and managing to impress in the limited opportunities that they have had, it becomes highly difficult to choose the best of them to be in the playing eleven.
The spin bowling department
The Indian team has five main spinners who are fighting for a spot in the team, which includes the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.
The two veterans, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, had been previously enjoying a dream run with the team, until the youngsters came in to prove their mettle.
Given their opportunities in the recently concluded Sri Lankan ODI series, all the three young guns have fired.
While Axar Patel was the most impressive of the lot taking 6 wickets in the 5 matches that he got to play, with an economy of 3.85 and an average of 25.67, Yuzvendra Chahal too managed to take 5 wickets in 4 ODIs, but with a slightly higher economy of 4.70 and an average of 37.60.
Kuldeep Yadav got just 2 matches to play but still made the most of it by taking 3 wickets at an economy of 3.80 and an average of 23.67 (better than Axar, but unfortunately fewer number of games).
These performances forced the Indian selectors to keep both Ashwin and Jaddu out of the squad for the Australian series. Unfortunate for Axar Patel to go out of the team due to an injury, but Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav continued to spin the Indian team to victory in the first ODI against the Aussies, taking 3 and 2 wickets each. But, it is going to be further competition when Axar comes back from injury, as he is currently ranked 10 in the ICC ODI bowlers rankings, and is also a good prospect with the bat.
The fast bowling department
Four front-line pacers Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, are up for grabs. While Mohammed Shami and Bhuvaneshwar can swing the new ball both ways, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah have pace on their side. Once again, given their performing abilities and stats, it is a mind-boggling task to choose between them.
Mohammed Shami had been regarded as a prodigy for the Indian bowling attack, having the ability to swing both the new ball and the old one. Is it unlucky for him that he has not managed to seal a place in the team, owing to his lack of fitness and regular threat of injuries.
Umesh Yadav had been the go-to bowler for Virat Kohli all through last year. He has managed to overcome the green patch of his career and mature into an outstanding and fiery pacer.
Bhuvaneshwar Kumar has had his fair share of chances in the international squad. Initially he had the ability to just control the new ball, and was highly uneconomical in the death overs, which kept him in-and-out of the playing eleven, but has now adapted to bowling those crucial yorkers in the death overs as well. Though he failed to take even a single wicket in the first 4 ODI's against the Sri Lankans, he broke the shackles getting his maiden fifer in the final match, impressing one and all, and managing to get a berth to play against Australia.
Jasprit Bhumrah is turning out to be a sensation for the team, being the go-to death bowler while picking up regular wickets in the middle-overs as well. Though he has been the best T20 bowler in the world for a long time, he came into the top 10 in the ICC rankings only after he demolished the Lankan batting, taking 15 wickets in the 5 ODI's.
He is currently ranked 4, but we will not need to wait long to see him on the top if he continues in this form.
A look into the right combination
It is understood that a maximum of two spinners can be taken into the playing eleven, unless the pitch is a rank turner. The right combination would be one in which both the spinners turn the ball in the opposite directions.
Also, it depends on the conditions of play and the opposition to be faced. In flat pitches, the wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav can bring some turn into play. On turning tracks, the experience of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja can be more effective.
In case the opposition is too strong in their bowling line-up, that would require an additional depth into the batting arsenal, which Axar Patel can provide.
The combination of fast bowlers also depends on similar conditions. If there is enough grass on the pitch, which brings swing into play early on, then Bhuwaneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami can be the right pair.
On bouncy tracks, like the ones in Australia and England, Umesh Yadav can fire it in, while Jasprit Bhumrah makes the best use of his angular bowling action.
Hardik Pandya concreting his position in the playing eleven as an all-rounder, proving his worth with both the bat and the ball, it leaves just four more positions open to the competing nine bowlers that we just talked about.
This leaves a lot to think about for Virat Kohli and the selectors.
While they cannot let go of the experienced lot, they cannot ignore the capabilities of the youngsters as well. It is indeed turning out to be an incredible dilemma, one that is ultimately very positive for the Indian team.