Bhuvneshwar Kumar has played an excellent supporting role and largely been very restrictive while Mohammed Shami has been a lethal wicket-taker making a resurgence in ODIs.
India's seamers have the most number of wickets in ODIs since the Champions Trophy in 2017 - their 183 wickets coming at a pretty good average of 30.95 and a strike rate of 35.8. It is important to note that between the 2015 World Cup and the Champions Trophy, the pace attack had averaged 36.02 and given runs away at an economy close to 6 (down to 5.17 post the Champions Trophy).
But there is an immediate concern in the pace bowling department for India.
While Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar and Shami form an excellent trio and with Hardik Pandya in the mix, India seem to have a fairly robust seam bowling unit, but the question remains who will be the reserve seamer in the World Cup squad.
Given the workload shared by the three frontline Indian pacers in international cricket and coupled with that the gruesome schedule of the IPL, an injury is always around the corner and in this scenario it will be prudent for India to carry an extra seamer to England.
But what are their options?
India have played as many as nine fast bowlers (excluding Pandya and Vijay Shankar) in their ODI team since the Champions Trophy. Of these, Khaleel Ahmed appeared to be the front runner until he had a poor outing in Australia and New Zealand and was consequently dropped for the upcoming ODI series at home.
Shardul Thakur has been expensive which has meant he isn't in contention right now while Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Siraj and Siddharth Kaul haven’t done enough to merit a place in the squad.
Yadav's numbers have dropped drastically from the World Cup in Australia/New Zealand where he was the top wicket-taker for India with 18 wickets in 8 matches at 17.83. Since the Champions Trophy, that average has deteriorated to 33.53 while the economy has soared above 6.
While Bumrah is now regarded as the best bowler in limited overs cricket and Bhuvneshwar’s numbers have significantly improved (average of 48.4 between WC 2015 and CT 2017 has improved to 32.17 since CT 2017), the rest of the group, with the exception of Shami, has struggled like Umesh.
Even the all-rounder, Hardik Pandya, has seen his average rise from 32.88 between World Cup and Champions Trophy to 39.32 post the event in England.
If Bumrah or Bhuvneshwar suffer an injury, India are bound to struggle not only in their ability to make inroads and pick wickets but also to keep the opposition under a tight leash.
The economy rate is above 6 when both Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah are absent in India's playing XI and the averages aren't great either.
Barring Umesh and Shami (apart from Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar), who have played 27 and 12 ODIs since WC 2015, none of the other fast bowlers tried by India have represented them in more than 10 matches in this period – Khaleel and Dhawal Kulkarni (8), Ishant Sharma (4), Mohit Sharma (6), Barinder Sran (6), Thakur (5), Rishi Dhawan (3) and Deepak Chahar (1) – an evidence of the lack of faith the selectors have had in them.
The ODI series against Australia offers a chance for the hosts to identify their fourth seam bowling option for the World Cup – an option that could be crucial on the flat tracks in England.
* stats before start of ODI series vs Australia
First Published: March 1, 2019, 9:33 PM IST