One of the pleasing aspects of India’s win in the deciding T20 on Sunday was the way the bowlers halted the collateral damage in the death overs against a rampant batting line-up on a flat pitch. This was a team missing the ever dependable Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, two of the finest craftsmen with the white ball during the slog overs.
As the action shifts towards the 50-over game India will once again be without ever consistent Bumrah and it will be once again up to the likes of Umesh Yadav and a Shardul Thakur to fill the void. It won’t be an easy task.
Bumrah is currently ranked the best ODI bowler and despite playing only 37 ODI’s, he is the go-to-man for Virat Kohli in the 50 over format. His record is outstanding, 64 wickets at 22.50 with an economy rate of just 4.64. He has been such an integral part of the bowling unit having played 37 out of the 44 ODI since 2016. In his last 21 matches, he has gone wicketless just once and the last time he conceded over six runs an over was during the tumultuous day of the Champion Trophy final.
Apart from all the outstanding numbers that Bumrah poses it is his sheer presence that India will definitely miss. In the past one year, he has generally taken the new ball and has also been handed the white Kookaburra in a time of crisis. Fair to say, he has passed the stern examination of international cricket with flying colours. His rapid rise to the top of the bowling ranking along with his maturity led to Shane Bond, the Mumbai Indians coach describing him as the ‘best fast bowler in the world’. Without him, it is an almighty task for the bowling group.
Given the hot weather in England and the brand of cricket the hosts advocate chances are the pitches will be placid and scores in the vicinity of 325-330 are likely to be par. This means restricting England during the first and the third power-play will be crucial. It is during this period that the Gujarat pacer is the most productive and given the fact that he has bowled during those phases of the innings for the past 18 months, it will be an enormous task for a Yadav or Thakur or Pandya to replicate Bumrah’s feats.
Bumrah’s numbers during the slog overs are outstanding and apart from Bhuvneshwar and Mitchell Starc, there are no bowlers in world cricket that can match his ability to bowl a yorker. In the recently concluded T20 series, Umesh was able to bowl in the blockhole consistently, but he will need to replicate those skills on a constant basis if India is to duplicate Bumrah’s success.
It is also worth noting while the world is absorbed with Bumrah’s prowess at the back end of the innings, his ability to take wickets with the new ball is also an area India will feel his absence. Interesting enough, Bumrah has taken a wicket in his first spell on ten occasions from his past 12 outings. It shows he is no one trick pony and his replacement needs to not only deliver at the death but also upfront.
Above all, it will be the variety Bumrah provides to the Indian attack that will be tricky to replace. With no left-arm pace bowler in the ranks, the Indian bowling line-up often has a predictable feel about it. But with his unorthodox action, quick release and sheer pace, Bumrah has the ability to deceive the best batsmen. The pressure he creates from one side generally results in batsmen taking unwarranted risks against other bowlers, leading to pressure and wickets. Without him in the team, England’s deep batting will find it easier to plan their innings and target the right bowlers.
Bumrah’s absence also means Kohli will need to map who will bowl during the back end of the innings. For the past year, Kohli has had the luxury of calculating the allocated overs during the middle stages of the match knowing Bumrah will always provide quality three or fours over during the back end of the innings. The Indian skipper will need to be more astute and incisive.
Then there is every chance that due to the tight schedule and the five-Test series next month Bhuvneshwar could well be rested for at least one match which will only make India’s task even tougher. On the bright side, India will take plenty of confidence from the way the team still managed to overcome the powerful England batting unit in the three T20’s despite being without the services of Bumrah. The ODI’s will tougher and there is bound to be a game or a phase of an innings where Kohli will wish that he had the No 1 bowler in the world he can throw the ball to.