Three Indian fast bowlers who could be recommended for the Arjuna Award this year
- These pacers have proven their craft over the long run for the Indian team.
- Ishant, Shami, and Bumrah are the front-runners among cricketers who could be nominated for the Arjuna awards this year
The Arjuna Award is the 2nd highest sporting honor bestowed by the Government of India after the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. It is an annual award given by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports on the occasion of National Sports Day, the 29th of August.
The award recognizes the accomplishments of all Indian sportspersons across sporting disciplines. The award winners are chosen by a panel of experts formed by the Government of India, which takes into consideration the performance of the athletes over the last 4 years and specifically over the last one year.
A total of 19 sportspersons were bestowed with the Arjuna award in 2019. This included 2 cricketers, Ravindra Jadeja and Poonam Yadav. For the record, a total of 55 cricketers have received the Arjuna award till the year 2019 with Salim Durani being the first cricketer to receive the award in the year 1961.
Let us have a look at three Indian cricketers who could be recommended by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for the Arjuna award this year.
#3 Jasprit Bumrah
Jasprit Bumrah has been the lynchpin of the Indian bowling attack ever since his debut in 2016. Although he started as a white-ball specialist, he is now an indispensable part of the Indian pace bowling attack even in Test cricket.
In the limited-overs game, both ODIs and T20s, he is India's go-to bowler both in the initial Powerplay overs and also at the death. Whether it is to break a partnership or bowl a Super Over, it is inevitably Bumrah who shoulders the responsibility and comes out with flying colors more often than not.
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Bumrah has claimed 104 wickets in 64 ODI matches with an economy of 4.55 runs per over and has a career-best bowling analysis of 5 for 27 against Sri Lanka. He is the 2nd fastest Indian to 100 ODI wickets after Mohammed Shami and was also the highest wicket-taker for India at the 2019 ODI World Cup.
Bumrah is India's highest wicket-taker in T20Is with 59 wickets to his credit at a remarkable economy of just 6.66 runs per over, considering that he bowls most of his overs in the Power play or at the fag end of the innings.
Even in the longer format, Bumrah has an impressive record having bagged 68 wickets in just 14 Test matches. In his debut Test season itself, he earned the distinction of becoming the first Asian bowler to take 5 wickets in an innings in South Africa, England and Australia during a single calendar year. He even went on to become the third Indian bowler to claim a Test hat-trick when he achieved the feat against West Indies in 2019.
Bumrah was the recipient of the Polly Umrigar Award for international cricketer of the year at the BCCI awards for 2019 and was also one of the 3 male cricketers recommended by the BCCI for the Arjuna awards last year but had lost out to Ravindra Jadeja. Considering his performances over the last few years, it is very much likely that the BCCI would be recommending him this year as well for the Arjuna awards.
#2 Mohammed Shami
Mohammed Shami has also been a pivotal part of the Indian bowling attack in all three formats of the game but more so in Test matches. His improved fitness in the last couple of years, added to his perfect seam position, has made him a very difficult proposition for the opposition batsmen.
Shami has been India's most consistent bowler in Test-match cricket, both home and away, for the last few years. He has claimed 180 Test scalps in just 49 Ttest matches with a career-best bowling analysis of 6 for 56 against Australia at Perth. He holds the record of the best bowling analysis by an Indian pacer on Test debut with his effort of 9 for 118 against West Indies in Kolkata. With his upright seam position and propensity to get appreciable reverse swing, he is almost unplayable in the 2nd innings of a test match resulting in him being tagged as "2nd innings Shami".
Although Shami was not part of the Indian limited-overs team for a couple of years owing to his fitness issues and tendency to leak runs, he has now made himself a certainty in the white-ball format as well.
Shami has accounted for 144 wickets in 77 ODI matches with a best of 5 for 69 against England at the 2019 World Cup. He holds the distinction of being the quickest Indian to 100 ODI wickets. Although he featured in only 4 matches at the World Cup, Shami managed to bag 14 wickets with a strike rate of just 15. He even became the 2nd Indian bowler after Chetan Sharma to bag a hat-trick in an ODI World Cup, with his hat-trick against Afghanistan. Shami's growing prowess in ODIs can be gauged by the fact that he took 42 wickets in the year 2019, the most by any bowler in the world.
Shami has played only 11 T20Is, taking 12 wickets in these matches. But with his improved fitness and wicket-taking abilities, he is likely to be an integral part of the Indian squad for the T20 World Cup to be held in Australia later in the year.
Just like Bumrah, Shami was also recommended by the BCCI for the Arjuna award last year and is more than likely to be recommended this year as well considering his exemplary performances over the last year.
#1 Ishant Sharma
Ishant Sharma has been the workhorse of the Indian pace bowling attack in Test cricket ever since his debut. Although he has not been able to cement a place for himself in the limited-overs format, he has been the backbone of the Indian pace attack in Test cricket.
Ishant will always be remembered for his spell against Ricky Ponting in the 2008 Perth Test where he tormented the Aussie great before getting him out. That spell best defines the career of Ishant Sharma, a never-say-die attitude and always willing to go the extra mile for the team. For the record, Ishant has taken 297 wickets in 97 test matches with a career-best analysis of 7 for 74 against England at Lord's where he bounced the English batsmen into submission. He is the 3rd highest wicket-taking pace bowler for India in test matches after the great Kapil Dev and Zaheer Khan. He also holds the distinction of being the highest wicket-taking Indian pacer outside of Asia.
But for all his exploits with the red ball, Ishant was never able to seal a place for himself in India's limited-overs team and has been almost out of the reckoning for the last couple of years. Despite that, he has a decent ODI record having claimed 115 wickets in 80 ODIs. The highlight of his ODI career was the spell he bowled to win India the Champions Trophy final against England in 2013. He has played only 14 T20Is for India with 8 wickets to his credit. His inability to bowl yorkers consistently or a well-disguised slower one has worked against his inclusion in the Indian limited-overs setup.
Despite his consistent performances over the years in Test match cricket, Ishant has never been recommended by the BCCI for the Arjuna award. But considering his value to the team as a guiding force and the longevity of his contribution to Indian cricket, nearly 100 Test matches, he should certainly be one of the front-runners to be recommended for the Arjuna award this year.Published 16 Mar 2020, 20:57 IST