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With key bowlers sidelined, India may have bounced itself out of T20 World Cup

New Delhi, Oct 15 (IANS) India is having more than its share of injuries to key players going into the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia even as countries such as Australia, England and Pakistan seem to be on track to field their best players in the showpiece events.

With the likes of pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah (stress fracture in the back), Deepak Chahrar (back and hip joint issues) and allrounder Ravindra Jadeja (recovering from knee surgery), sidelined ahead of the tournament, commencing in the next few days, it has only added to skipper Rohit Sharma’s headache, and he has been voicing the concern in almost every post-match press conference of late.

Bumrah’s importance cannot be underestimated, given that he has been the captain’s go-to man, be it in T20Is, ODIs, Tests or in the Indian Premier League for Mumbai Indians.

Legendary Australian all-rounder Shane Watson’s prophetic words that it’s “going to be a bit more of a battle for India without the injured Jasprit Bumrah” in the ICC T20 World Cup perhaps is an affirmation of the immense talent the 29-year-old pace spearhead has as the star-studded team beings its journey to regain the trophy it won in 2007.

Bumrah’s injury came at a time when India was in the final phase of preparations for the T20 World Cup and it left the selectors with very little time — and options — to look for a suitable alternative to the spearhead. The pace bowler took more wickets than any other India quick at last year’s T20 World Cup in the UAE and it’s his versatility with the new ball and at the death that skipper Sharma would have been banking upon to guide the team to the trophy Down Under.

Unfortunately, Bumrah was ruled out and it just added to the captain’s woes, who will now have the services of veteran quick Mohammed Shami, named as replacement for Bumrah in the 15-member squad, while Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur, following fruitful outings in the recently-concluded ODI series against South Africa at home will be in the reserves.

Bumrah’s aura is such that one has completely missed the fact that one of India’s top all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja too has been ruled out due to a knee injury. The absence of the two key players gives the Indian bowling department a rather weak look, though Suryakumar Yadav’s emergence as one of the best T20 batters in the world has shifted the focus somewhat on batting.

Before the start of Super Four stage of the Asia Cup in the UAE, Jadeja was ruled out due to right knee injury and underwent surgery for the same, ruling him out of selection for the T20 World Cup, with left-arm spinner Axar Patel named a like-for-like replacement for the charismatic allrounder.

Two setbacks in the bowling department can rattle any side but India had another injury setback to contend with, as Deepak Chahar, who was among the reserves and a frontrunner to replace Bumrah in the 15-member squad, was recently ruled out due to back and hip injuries.

Chahar, 30, was in sublime form ever since he returned from a long injury lay-off during the series against Zimbabwe in Harare after missing the entire Indian Premier League 2022 season. But the bowler was recently ruled out of the ODI series against South Africa due to a stiff back with off-spinner Washington Sundar replacing him.

It’s rare for India to be go into a mega-event with injuries to so many key bowlers, but given the amount of international cricket the side is playing, not to forget the two-month grind of the Indian Premier League, pace bowlers will continue to bear the consequences, given the kind of beating their body takes.

While Watson feels India’s chances of claiming a second T20 World Cup will be severely hampered due to Bumrah’s absence, not everything is lost for the former champions.

With former skipper Virat Kohli finding his touch in the recently concluded Asia Cup, where he scored a century against Afghanistan, and his heartening performances in the T20I series against Australia and South Africa, India could well have to change their strategy and rely on their batters to pile up big scores and put pressure on the rival teams rather than bank heavily on their bowlers.

With Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s death-overs bowling coming under criticism and experts questioning the logic of taking three spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel, while leaving out Umran Malik, the onus will be on batters to win the Cup for India.

–IANS

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