We are roughly a week away from the marquee tournament, T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia. The hype is already around the corner with many experts predicting their favorites and the semi-finalists of the tournament. India, being the first-ranked T20I team, also feature among the strong contenders for the trophy. But with a string of injury woes including the ace all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and prime death bowler Jasprit Bumrah, is the Indian team really in a position to claim the trophy? Team India and their fans have been desperately waiting for an ICC trophy, and the never-ending list of injured players is not giving them a lot of promise.
Deepak Chahar, another reserve player, bowed out of the contention due to a stiff back and was replaced by medium pacer Shardul Thakur.
‘Sir’ Jadeja – the 3D player!
At the start of the Asia Cup earlier this year, the team was looking to settle down into a full-strength squad. There were concerns related to players’ form but the big positive was that all the players in contention for the T20 World Cup were fit and available for the tournament. Jadeja going out was the first and a very big blow to the team’s balance. Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, the two all-rounders provide the flexibility to pick an extra bowler or batsman.
Leave alone his bowling, Jadeja’s presence on the field and with the bat will be missed more. Little needs to be said about his electric fielding but if your Number seven batsman has scored at an average of 48 and a healthy strike rate of over 137 in the last year, you can’t ask for more. His being a left-handed batsman provides a bonus as he can be shuffled around the batting order like he was promoted against Pakistan in that first game at the Asia Cup and did well to win the game for his side. At the moment, Axar Patel seems to be replacing him in the playing XI. Axar can be a like-to-like replacement in the bowling department, but how reliable a striker he can be at number seven, remains to be seen, especially with a big tail!
Fragile bowling attack minus Bumrah
Bowling has been a big area of concern for the Indian team going into the World Cup. Especially in the middle and the death overs, there have been multiple occasions off late when Indian bowling looked clueless. Be it the Asia Cup or the series against Australia and South Africa, not one bowler could stand out, more so while defending a total. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, and Shardul Thakur – all reputed names from the Indian Premier League for their wicket-taking abilities and economic bowling, have done little to stand true to that reputation. Neither have they been able to take wickets nor save runs.
In this scenario, Indian fans were looking forward to their star bowler Bumrah who is well known for his slower balls and toe-crushing yorkers in the limited-overs. For years now, Bumrah has been a go-to bowler for India throughout the innings – from the powerplay to the death. Be it taking crucial wickets or resisting the Opposition onslaught, Bumrah has delivered umpteen times. Even when the Indian bowlers were struggling big time in the middle and death overs through the Asia Cup and the series against Australia, the fans were counting on Bumrah’s return but when the news of his injury came, it was the biggest blow to India’s World Cup chances. While Patel can still fill Jadeja’s shoes to some extent, finding someone with similar skill sets to Bumrah from the Indian bench is a very daunting task. And perhaps for the same reason, his replacement hasn’t been named yet.
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The Foggy Road Ahead
While Bumrah’s and Jadeja’s were two of the major injury concerns, it doesn’t just end there. Deepak Hooda was reported injured a few weeks back and hasn’t played since then. Arshdeep had to sit out against South Africa for a back issue. Mohammad Shami, who is in the reserves and is tipped to be Bumrah’s replacement got infected with covid and is yet to prove his match fitness. Thakur, another reserve player, had featured in ODI series against South Africa. It’s almost as if every day, a new injury update is coming to the surface.
While Team India is really struggling to find a balanced squad due to the regular injury updates, the hopes are not all lost for them. The batting looks very strong on paper after KL Rahul and Virat Kohli have found their forms back and Suryakumar Yadav giving consistent performances. For India to do well at the tournament, their batting department which has reinvented its approach in the shorter format has to do more than ever to cover up for the shortcomings in the bowling department. Also, the wicket-takers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal need to step up during the powerplay and the middle overs and put some pressure on the opponent’s batting.
An injury-ridden Indian team in Australia is not a first. Last we witnessed something like that, the Indian team triumphed in the Border-Gavaskar trophy 2020-21. While it is to be seen if India repeats the heroics, the injuries are definitely not helping the team’s campaign at the moment.