Asia Cup 2023: Men in Blue hunting as a pack
With the ODI World Cup less than a month away, the bowling coach feels the Indian bowlers are an experienced lot and have the ability to adapt to various situations.
COLOMBO: Since the start of 2023, India has played 16 ODIs winning 12, losing three and one ending in a no-result. Nine of them were played at home with the hosts winning seven. Given their strong batting line-up, they had posted more than 300 runs six times with their highest total being 390/5 against visiting Sri Lanka in Thiruvananthapuram back in January.
Despite it mostly being batting-friendly pitches and conditions, Indian bowlers played an equally important role in these wins as they bowled out opponents 12 out of 16 times. Be it pacers or spinners, the Indian bowlers had worked as a team to keep a check on batters and prevented them from running away with the match on most occasions.
Given their show this year, India bowling coach Paras Mhambrey was a happy man ahead of India's last Super Four match against Bangladesh at the 2023 Asia Cup here at R Premadasa Stadium, Colombo on Thursday. "Problem of plenty is always good," was his response when asked whether it's difficult to choose from so many available options during a press conference.
"We have been following (Jasprit) Bumrah's progress from the National Cricket Academy and we have been very happy with the report that we have got. We have four quality bowlers out there. We have covered different aspects skill-wise. Like Mohammed Shami brings a different skill, Prasidh (Krishna) brings a different skill, and Bumrah is special. The option of choosing the right combination will depend on what surface we are playing and what opponents we are playing," he said.
India had bowled out all of their opponents at the ongoing continental tournament except in their opener against Pakistan which was washed out. In the match against Sri Lanka, they defended a modest total of 213 as they wrapped up the co-hosts' innings for 172 in 41.3 overs. Left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav claimed four while Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja bagged two wickets apiece in the contest. Mohammed Siraj and Hardik Pandya too claimed a wicket each.
Their Super Four match against arch-rivals turned out to be a one-sided affair with the batters including Virat Kohli and KL Rahul slamming a century each while bowlers bundling out Pakistan for 128 runs in 32 overs. Kuldeep completed a five-for while Hardik, Shardul Thakur and Bumrah scalped a wicket each. Against Nepal in their Group A match, the bowlers dismissed batters for 230 runs in 48.2 overs. Siraj and Jadeja walked away with three wickets each while Shami, Hardik and Thakur returned with a wicket each.
With the ODI World Cup less than a month away, the bowling coach feels the Indian bowlers are an experienced lot and have the ability to adapt to various situations. "First thing is that the amount of cricket these pacers have played, I don't think I need to tell them anything. They are very experienced and have the ability to read the pitch and understand the situation. Like Bumrah bowled that day (against Sri Lanka). Every bowler decides how to bowl looking at conditions. Initially, he bowled with pace but we believed variations could work. So everyone understands that. All of them are experienced so they don't need to be told something. We discuss what options can be given. From a coaching perspective, I give them options. What options they need depends on the situation an individual decides. They have played a lot together. There is good communication among them so it makes my work easy."
Hardik has been good for the team this year, especially with the ball. He has claimed 13 wickets in 15 ODIs so far. The pace he was generating against Sri Lanka had kept everybody hooked and Mhambrey was no different.
"Firstly, (I am) very happy with the way Hardik has shaped up, something that we worked on for a long time. We have been managing his workload, making sure that he is fit first and is able to achieve what we expect out of him right now. Once he hits 140 kph he is a different bowler. From the team perspective, it's a wicket-taking option that we have."
The former India player, however, admitted it's very difficult to drop a pacer like Shami given the amount of experience he has in international cricket. "Extremely difficult, it's not very easy to drop someone like Shami. The experience that he has and the performance that he has done for the country is phenomenal. It's never easy to have that kind of a conversation but I think we are clearly the way we have gone about the conversation with the players and the confidence they have shown us and any decision that we have taken the player knows. And anything is for the benefit of the team," he said.
The bowlers need to carry their form to the marquee event starting October 5 in their own backyard. Their performance in the sub-continental conditions will decide whether India will be able to lift the trophy after 12 years.