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India's lack of bowling options who can bat is a big worry

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Roar Guru
27th November, 2020
6

This headline isn’t a reactionary article following India’s loss to Australia at the SCG.

It’s the harsh truth that Virat Kohli and the Indian selectors need to accept.

Ever since Ravichandran Ashwin was dropped from the Indian ODI team after the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final, India have always found themselves exposed with the tail in their ODI team. Let’s have a look at India’s bowlers in the ODI squad that have travelled to Australia.

Bowlers: Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur.

Bar Shardul Thakur, who is known in Indian domestic cricket for his late cameos, the rest aren’t known for their batting prowess. As for Thakur, his ODI economy of seven after 12 ODIs means it won’t be long before he gets dropped unless he improves drastically with the ball. So how does India solve this issue?

Here are the bowlers/all-rounders that should be in contention for India’s ODI squad within the next 12 months.

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Shreyas Gopal (bowling all-rounder)
List A stats – 400 runs, 22.22 average, zero 50s, zero hundreds, 94.33 strike rate, 64 wickets, 22.57 average, 26.4 strike rate, 5.11 economy

Having been mentored by Shane Warne over the past few years in the IPL, Shreyas Gopal has improved a lot as a leg-spinner. Not afraid to lure batsmen with flight and dip, Gopal is a proven bowler in List A cricket with the odd cameo with the bat when required. Add in Kuldeep Yadav’s poor form and Gopal’s chances of making the Indian ODI squad soon are pretty high.

Krishnappa Gowtham (bowling all-rounder)
List A stats – 530 runs, 22.08 average, one 50, zero hundreds, 139.47 strike rate, 67 wickets, 27.52 average, 35.4 strike rate, 4.65 economy

If there was anyone who could challenge Hardik Pandya as India’s most powerful hitter, it’d be Gowtham. Alongside Shreyas Gopal, the duo have played a key role in Karnataka winning white-ball tournaments for fun over the past few years.

With Ravindra Jadeja hardly winning India many matches since his recall in September 2018, it’s time for India to move on from Jadeja in ODIs and look for alternatives. Gowtham’s List A strike rate shows he’s more than ready to deliver when required with the bat and with the ball. He can use his height to effect and generate decent bounce and turn.

Virat Kohli at training.

Does Virat Kohli need to inject some fresh blood into his squad? (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

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Anukul Roy (all rounder)
List A stats – 474 runs, 31.6 average, two 50s, zero hundreds, 110.48 strike rate, 27 wickets, 26.18 average, 34.2 strike rate, 4.58 economy

As the strike rate shows, Anukul Roy is another player who likes to take on the bowlers with willow in hand. A like-for-like replacement for Jadeja in all facets, Roy bowls left-arm orthodox and his progress has impressed Indian selectors so far.

Still only 21 and a part of India’s under-19 World Cup-winning campaign, Roy is tipped to have a bright future. Is Roy ready to be thrown into the deep end? You can’t tell unless he gets a chance to don the Indian colours in ODI cricket.

Jaydev Unadkat (bowler)
List A stats – 133 wickets, 30.01 average, 36.9 strike rate, 4.87 economy
ODI stats – eight wickets, 26.12 average, 39.0 strike rate, 4.01 economy

When players such as Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav get many opportunities in ODI cricket but Jaydev Unadkat gets disregarded for over seven years, it makes you wonder if the BCCI really care about List A tournaments.

For years, Unadkat has shown his mettle in List A cricket alongside the limited ODI opportunities he’s had to date. India have yearned for a left-armer since Zaheer Khan’s retirement, but Unadkat never got the backing that he deserved. While Unadkat hasn’t shown his batting skills in List A cricket to the best of his abilities, a strike rate of 123 in T20 cricket and six first-class 50s shows he’s more than capable with the bat.

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For India to go into this ODI series with only one all-rounder knowing Hardik Pandya was unlikely to bowl was stupidity and carelessness at its finest. Considering the wide talent pool India have at their disposal, it was surprising to see them not utilise it.

While not every ODI team will be able to possess a long batting line-up such as England, you can’t be going into games with five bowling options and four tail-enders. Every ODI team that competed in the 2019 ICC World Cup has a batting line-up that had capable boundary hitters until at least number nine bar India.

For India to change their style of ODI cricket and become a more successful team to win ICC titles, they need to include bowlers who can also bat. While I’m not saying stack the team with all-rounders, it’s important to have bowlers who can bat and bail the batsmen out on an off day, which can happen anytime.

India’s best ODI XI, squad and reserves at full strength
XI: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (captain), Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wicketkeeper), Hardik Pandya, Anukul Roy, Shreyas Gopal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah

Bench for 15-man squad: Mayank Agarwal, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jaydev Unadkat, Ishan Kishan (wicketkeeper)

Reserves: Deepak Chahar, Ishan Porel, Rahul Chahar, Krishnappa Gowtham, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Nitish Rana, Vijay Shankar, Shivam Dube