The star fast bowler will be sorely missed by his team.
Bilal Ahsan Dar
India’s bowling spearhead Jasprit Bumrah has been ruled out of the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup World Cup due to back injury. It’s a big jolt for India for there’s none who could be a perfect replacement for him. Earlier, star all-rounder Ravinder Jadeja was also ruled out of the tournament because of a knee injury.
India’s early exit from the Asia Cup had already put question marks on team’s readiness for the world cup. India entered the Asia cup as defending champions and was the most fancied team in the continental event, but back to back defeats to Pakistan and Sri Lanka put paid to their title aspirations.
Though the team got a good confidence booster before leaving for Australia, winning the T20 series at home against the Kangaroos and a maiden T20 home series against South Africa, in both the bilateral tournaments, mostly the batters reigned supreme.
Burmrah played a couple of matches against Australia, but he failed to make it to the series opener against South Africa complaining back pain. He was rested for the series and, after medical test, declared unfit for the world cup as well.
“Bumrah’s absence is a big loss,” said Rahul Dravid, India’s head coach. Sunil Gavaskar wrote in his Mid-Day column: “Jasprit Bumrah’s absence from the Indian team for the world cup will hurt India considerably. There’s no other player in the Indian team, with due respect to every other player, whose absence means so much than Bumrah.”
Not just former cricketers but many others echo a similar view.
Talking to Kashmir Newsline, author and former sports editor of Hindustan Times, Pradeep Magazine said: “His absence is a severe setback for India. For he’s that rare bowler who, even in a format like T20, shackles the batsman, and produces match winning spells.”
Srinagar-based sports observer and columnist Waheed Mirza aslo feels that Bumrah will be sorely missed. “What makes Bumrah cut above the rest is his uncanny ability to bowl wicket-taking deliveries at any surface and at any stage of the game. His death bowling skills will be missed hugely, for not only can he stem the flow of runs in the slog overs, he takes wickets consistently to peg the opposition back,” said Mirza.
Stats suggest that the win percentage of the team is more when Bumrah is playing, even other bowlers perform better around him.
Bumrah is the best exponent of yorker in the world cricket today, which makes him a genuine wicket taking option.
His value as a bowler extends with his ability to bowl in all phases of the match, that is, in the power play with the new ball, in the middle phase and in death overs as well. As per stats, Bumrah’s economy rate in T20Is in the power play is just 5.57, in the middle overs, it is 5.80 and at the backend 8.15, which is best in three phases than any other bowler in the Indian team.
This also gives freedom to his captain to use him at any stage of the game. India’s death bowling has been a grave concern for the team in Bumrah’s absence.
The stats also reveal another interesting fact. Bowlers like Ravi Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya have a better economy rate when playing alongside Bumrah. In his absence, their economy rate tends to tilt on a higher side. Even the averages of these bowlers improve when Bumrah is playing.
Bumrah’s presence also means India wins more T20 games as the win percentage in matches with Bumrah is 76%, which in his absence is 68%.
These stats are a clear reflection of Bumrah’s pivotal role to team India’s success in the last 3-4 years.
Former broadcaster and sports analyst syed Humayun Qaiser believes Team India will have to stop thinking about Bumrah’s absence and get the best out of what it has.
“To say that he will be missed is an understatement. He is a game changer and the go-to man in crunch situations. But India will have to stop thinking about Bumrah’s absence or else it will impact the morale of the team. I find Shami to be a good replacement for Bumrah, since he too can take wickets at the top,” said Qaiser.
India does need to find an able replacement for Bumrah for the marquee event. In the span of two weeks in September, in Bumrah’s absence, they lost three games to Pakistan, Srilanka and Australia, who needed 43, 42 and 55 runs respectively when the last four overs began.
Another Interesting fact depicting the impact of Bumrah is that in all the T20Is that Bumrah has featured in since his debut, there has only been one instance of an Indian bowler conceding 20 or more runs in an over in death overs while defending a target. In games without Bumrah, there have been six such overs already in 2022.
There has been much discussion about Bumrah’s potential replacement and how India should cope with his absence. “Bumrah’s void is difficult to fill and, as of now, the best man to replace him would be Mohammad Shami,” said Mubashir Hassan, former firstclass player and coach from Srinagar. “Shami has done a reasonably good job. He exercises a good control over yorkers than other contenders which makes him a better replacement candidate,” said Hassan.
While it won’t be easy to find a replacement, India can still field a bowling attack that covers the bases – a combination of Bhuveneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh and Hardik Pandya. While Kumar and Pandya can use the new ball, Patel is good in the middle overs and Singh can nail the yorker to good effect at the backend. However, Kumar’s ability to bowl in death overs has oflate come under question. In some of his recent outings, he has been a poor version of himself in slog overs.
But if India goes back to Mohammad Shami, it can field along with him Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel and Hardik Pandya in the pace department and a spinner, which could be Chahal. But adding a spinner into the playing 11 can affect the batting depth.
India fielded the bowling line-up of Arshdeep singh , Deepak Chahar , Harshal Patel and Hardik Pandya against South Africa in the recent T20I series. It yielded good results and is the most probable combination India would go with in the opening games of the world cup. Deepak adds to the batting depth as well and bowls with the new ball, but the combination has a drawback of being inexperienced, one-dimensional and without any genuine fast bowler of 140 plus speed.
The bottom line is that India has the task at hand to minimize the effect of Bumrah’s absence. However, playing some warm up games ahead of the main tournament should give the team a fair idea about the right combination before they take the field on October 23.
Bilal Ahsan Dar is a blogger and cricket buff.