World Cup 2019: What should India’s bowling attack be?

The squad named by the BCCI on Friday for five ODIs against Australia – in two parts, for the first two games and then the last three – can be viewed as the one that will travel to England in May to contest the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup.

With the exception of Siddarth Kaul, who will make way for Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the last three ODIs, the bowlers named in the latest squad are what, in all likelihood, India will take to the World Cup. (READ: Is this India’s final World Cup squad?)

India have underlined their status as the second-ranked team in ODI cricket by winning back-to-back series in Australia and New Zealand, to follow the Asia Cup title and the home win over West Indies in late 2018, and Virat Kohli‘s team thus stand as viable contenders for the World Cup along with hosts England, for the mega event starting May 30. (READ: Is this the best Indian batting order for the World Cup?)

Here are the stats for India’s probable World Cup bowling attack since the start of 2018:

1. Jasprit Bumrah: M 13 Overs 100.5 Wkts 22 Avg 16.63 Econ 3.62 SR 27.5 BB 4/35

In a year in which he made his Test debut and claimed five-wicket hauls in South Africa, England and Australia, Jasprit Bumrah played just 13 ODIs as the selectors opted to manage his workload. He injured himself in England last summer, which also limited his game time. When he did play, Bumrah underlined his tag as the leader of India’s pace attack with key performances in the 5-1 win in South Africa, the Asia Cup title triumph and at home versus West Indies.

Jasprit Bumrah: Leader of India’s attack at the World Cup? © IANS

2. Bhuvneshwar Kumar: M 22 Overs 163.1 Wkts 26 Avg 32.57 Econ 5.19 SR 37.6 BB 4/45

Not being 100% fit in 2018 impacted Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s bowling last year, but after five wicketless ODIs he showed a semblance of a return to form during the Asia Cup with six wickets in his first two games. Two wicketless games followed, after which he was rested for part of the series at home against West Indies.

As 2019 started, Bhuvneshwar’s pace and accuracy returned. With 15 wickets across eight games in Australia and New Zealand, at an economy rate of 4.98, Bhuvneshwar was outstanding upfront and at the backend of innings.

3. Mohammed Shami: M 9 Overs 78.4 Wkts 17 Avg 25.23 Econ 5.45 SR 27.7 BB 3/19

Recalled to India’s ODI squad for part of the home series against West Indies in October, Mohammed Shami claimed 2/81 and 1/59 in 20 overs. With Bumrah rested for the Australia and New Zealand ODIs, Shami grabbed his chance with both hands and this year has 14 wickets from seven ODIs at an average of 20.64 and economy rate of 4.92.

So not only has be proven mighty important for India in successive series wins, he has pitchforked himself into the World Cup reckoning and pushed the left-armer Khaleel Ahmed out of the ODI squad. Shami may even push Bhuvneshwar out of India’s starting XI come June 5.

Hardik Pandya has a big role to play for India at the World Cup.
Hardik Pandya has a big role to play for India at the World Cup. © IANS

4. Hardik Pandya: M 13 Overs 92.2 Wkts 9 Avg 56.22 Econ 5.48 SR 61.5 BB 2/30

A back injury sustained during the Asia Cup meant that Pandya missed the second half of the tournament as well as the West Indies series, and then once he was recalled in Australia, he was sent home for his comments on a popular television talk show. Once the BCCI cleared him, Pandya was jettisoned back into the Indian XI team in New Zealand. In his first international match since September, Pandya underlined his all-round value with two wickets and took a diving catch.

Though he doesn’t have wickets to show for his efforts over the past year, the fact that Pandya can hit 140kph and break partnerships, plus his big hitting, slots him into India’s XI as the preferred allrounder in England.

5. Kuldeep Yadav: M 25 Overs 221.2 Wkts 55 Avg 19 Econ 4.72 SR 24.1 BB 6/25

India’s leading wicket-takers in ODIs since the start of 2018, the wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav has been a massive reason for India’s success.

In South Africa, his 17 wickets were the most in the 5-1 win. In England, where India were beaten 1-2 in the ODI leg of their tour, Kuldeep took nine wickets. In the Asia Cup he was India’s most successful bowler with 10 wickets. At home versus West Indies, Kuldeep claimed nine wickets in four ODIs.

In 2019, he has 10 wickets in six ODIs with an economy rate of 5.00, with successive four-wicket hauls against New Zealand. Come the World Cup, Kuldeep will be India’s first-choice spinner.

yuzvendra chahal and kuldeep yadav
Spin twins: Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have been a huge pairing. (AFP Photo)

6. Yuzvendra Chahal: M 23 Overs 207.1 Wkts 44 Avg 23.06 Econ 4.89 SR 28.2 BB 6/42

Second in the wickets’ tally since 2018 began, the legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal has been impactful. He took 16 wickets in South Africa, two in England, six in the Asia Cup, five in three ODIs versus West Indies and in 2019 has 15 wickets from six games.

In this time, he has two six-wicket hauls. In Australia, getting his first game in the final ODI, Chahal claimed 6/42 which are the best figures by a spinner in the country.

His partnership with Kuldeep has been huge for India, but whether he slots in for game one of the World Cup is not a done deal.

AND THEN …

In addition to these six bowlers, India should also have the options of seam-bowling allrounder Vijay Shankar and the part-time of offspin of Kedar Jadhav.

Shankar, 28, made his ODI debut in Australia last month and has bowled 16 overs in four game without a wicket. The selectors are in all likelihood viewing Shankar as a specialist batsman for the Australia series and the World Cup, but his bowling could be handy in England.

Jadhav’s ability to break partnerships is well known, and he has played a vital role as part-time bowler for India in ODIs.