NEW DELHI: The Indian team was dealt a big blow going into the Test series against South Africa as pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah was ruled out of the series with a stress fracture. But the other Indian pacers have stood up and made it count as Virat Kohli and boys enjoy an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match Test series.
Going into India's first Test series at home in the World Test Championship, all talks revolved around how the team would miss Bumrah's services, especially after his match-winning efforts in the last series against West Indies. But Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav have risen to the occasion to show the team management that they too have the arsenal to derail opposition attacks.
Having earned a lot of flak after finishing with figures of 0/47 from his 18 overs, Shami bowled brilliantly in the second innings to not only finish with figures of 5/35, but also had former Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar taking note and calling him one of the best pacers in world cricket at present.
"I told him that I want him to become an out and out fast bowler, he has a reverse swing, which is a luxury in the sub-continent, I told him you can become king of reverse swing. Now, you see what he has done, he has got wickets on a flat pitch in Visakhapatnam. I am very happy for him," Akhtar said.
Skipper Kohli also acknowledged Shami's role and said: "Shami has been a wicket-taker for us in the second innings for quite some time now."
If Shami stole the show in the first game, it was Umesh's turn in the second as he finished with figures of 3/37 and 3/22 as the South Africans lost by an innings and 137 runs. Yes, Umesh must credit Wriddhiman Saha for a couple of brilliant catches, but then, to finish with such figures after warming the bench for almost one whole season is no mean task.
Speaking after the game, Umesh said: "I need to give him (Wriddhiman Saha) a treat because I think those two wickets are Wriddhi bhai's only. When you put the ball outside leg stump you think it'll be a boundary, but if there is a little bit chance to convert a catch, we know he will take it.
"I know that there is a lot of competition in the team so whoever comes in has to do well. I knew that it was important I do well if I get a chance. The way we are winning matches, you have to have the mindset to grab your chances. I was confident coming into the match because the last time I played in India I got ten wickets in the match. If there is doubt in the mind, it's not possible to perform well. It all went well for me."
While leader of the pack Ishant Sharma is yet to reap the rewards of bowling a tidy line, the likes of Shami and Umesh have ensured that the spinning duo of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja can focus on attacking the Proteas batsmen further to spin a web around them. The two have picked 24 wickets so far in the series while the pacers have combined to pick 16.