RANCHI : If there are concerns in the Indian team heading to Dharamsala for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy decider, top of the pile will be whether to play an extra bowler at Karun Nair's expense. Since Virat Kohli took over as captain, India have been flexible with combinations, often depending on conditions. That the lower-order comprises Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav — in matches he played — have made Kohli’s job easier.
But having played 12 Tests since September, bowlers’ workload is sure to give him headaches. For the record, India’s frontline spinners, Ashwin and Jadeja, have together bowled more than 8000 deliveries. Ashwin has bowled 4,209, the most by an Indian in a season, and Jadeja is not far behind with 4,104 deliveries. That they've been match-winners and can’t be ignored is another story, but those shoulders might be getting numb.
Kohli's initial reaction said it all. “How many? How many? I didn’t know that. That sounds a lot,” he exclaimed. But then, if one expected sympathy, the India captain wasn't showing it, at least in public. Though India don’t have international assignments till the Champions Trophy in June, the Indian Premier League starts a week after the fourth Test, meaning no rest for the two.
“We've to see how many games they play in shorter formats during hectic seasons in the future, as they're valuable Test bowlers. That's the only way you can manage workload, because during a game you can't think that he bowled 4,000 balls in the season and I need to make him stop, because if you want to win a game, you need to push guys.
But you can manage workload in different formats, and you certainly want to look into it. We've done that in the past. And that's certainly going to be followed in the future, because you need to maintain a core group of Test bowlers that you need all the time, and it's not a difficult thing to do. But yes, one should be aware of that,” was Kohli’s lengthy explanation.
It is not just the spinners. Umesh Yadav, who has missed only one match this season, has bowled 1,985 deliveries, and only four other pacers around the world have bowled more than him. But in Indian conditions, particularly with the weather being harsh, it's never easy.
To his credit, Kohli has managed Umesh well, often using him for short bursts. Although, his ability to reverse the old ball means the Vidarbha bowler has had to toil under the hot afternoon sun. After Umesh, only Mohammed Shami has played more than five matches (6), while Ishant Sharma has played five.
The team management released Shami, who played the Vijay Hazare Trophy. With the series on the line, there is a possibility the Bengal bowler might be included for the final Test.
“We saw Shami bowl 10-12 overs on the go, and sent him to play the limited-over event to get him some match practice. I don't know (about his selection), I haven't spoken to selectors. But there are all kinds of possibilities before the next Test,” he concluded.