T20 World Cup | Cricket

Should India look into utilising Shardul?

Shardul Thakur. File   | Photo Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

Hardik Pandya’s inclusion solely as the finisher may have emerged the biggest talking point during India’s opening loss to Pakistan in its opening T20 World Cup game. But given Hardik’s inability to bowl, India’s decision to utilise Bhuvneshwar Kumar as the third pacer ahead of Shardul Thakur was a surprise.

As the Indian contingent opted against training for the second day in succession, it has more to ponder over the Bhuvneshwar conundrum.

Notwithstanding the fact that the move didn’t work — he was hit for a four and a six in the first over of Pakistan’s chase — preferring Bhuvneshwar over Shardul appeared to be based on reputation than current form or conditions.

Extremely useful

Historically, Bhuvneshwar has been extremely useful in the PowerPlay, be it in the IPL or T20Is. His economy rate of 5.72 in his T20I career is a testament to his utility at the start of the innings. However, over the last decade, Bhuvneshwar hasn’t been as effective at the death.

More than lack of pace, the main reason for Bhuvneshwar going for plenty in the final overs is the absence of swing in the latter half of the innings. His ability to move the ball has made him a potent weapon, especially at the start. But in the United Arab Emirates, where a seamer seldom gets assistance either in the air or off the surface, it’s the use of a bowler’s wrist combined with his pace that becomes crucial.

Take Shaheen Afridi, for example. Not only did he bowl at 140-plus kmph consistently but also managed to move the ball appreciably — quite exceptional given the conditions — that helped him trouble the Indian batters.

Inconsistent of late

Bhuvneshwar, on the other hand, hasn’t been a consistent wicket-taker in PowerPlays even in the IPL over the last couple of years. Add to it the fact that Bhuvneshwar isn’t of great use in the middle and at the death in T20Is, and India surely needs to deliberate on giving Shardul a go in these conditions.

Shardul’s uncanny ability to strike against the odds in the middle overs, thanks to his cross-seam bowling and change of pace, has come in handy for his IPL franchise. Add to that his utility of bowling his four overs at any stage of the innings — and having emerged as an effective hitter lower down the order — and Shardul becomes a better option.

India captain Virat Kohli had backed Bhuvneshwar ahead of the tournament, citing the last over he bowled to A.B. de Villiers in the IPL. It will be interesting to see if Kohli has a change of heart cometh the mighty crucial clash against New Zealand on Sunday.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 8:20:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/should-india-look-into-utilising-shardul/article37180506.ece

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