Khaleel Ahmed
Khaleel Ahmed (PTI Photo)

These are exciting times for Indian cricket. And not just because they have a certain batsman who has been smashing records with surreal consistency. Their fast-bowling department is brimming with talent – Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma.

Bowling coach Bharat Arun had a year back wished for a left-arm pacer to add to India’s fast-bowling arsenal. In Khaleel Ahmed, his prayers seems to have been answered.

However, a combined experience of seven international matches (5 ODIs and 2 T20Is) is by no means a yardstick to judge Khaleel’s talent but the potential the 20-year-old has shown, surely makes him an ‘exciting prospect’.

“Khaleel looks a very exciting prospect. He’s sharp, has the skills to do well at the international level,” Arun said of Khaleel who took 3/13 to wipe out Windies’ middle-order in Mumbai.

Arun is impressed with the options India have at their disposal. A solid bench strength also means that India, who rarely enjoy an off-season, can manage the workload of their bowlers. And with the World Cup now just months away, the job of keeping bowlers match-fit and injury-free attains greater significance.

“When we started off, the onus was on not only creating a pace bowling unit which would be a force to reckon with but we also needed a very good bench strength. To sustain fast bowling over a long period of time, you need to rotate these bowlers because you have to manage their workloads. India plays at least 60 percent more cricket than the rest of the world.

“So workload management becomes very important. For the first time, I guess, we have a very good fast bowling quartet and also the bench strength is very exciting,” Arun said.

He continued, “Four fast bowlers playing in the same match was unheard of. I think, in South Africa, for the first time in Indian cricket history, we went into a match without a single spinner. This augurs really well for Indian cricket.”

Fitness is one area that has been a bit controversial in the recent past. Clearing Yo-Yo test to play for India has become mandatory so much so that those who have managed to cement their spot in the playing XI, can be dropped should they fail to do so.

Ambati Rayudu, Mohammed Shami are among those who have been caught on the wrong side of the fence. Arun said the policy won’t be tweaked and the dreaded test will continue to be the fitness criteria. “With the kind of schedules we have, it’s (fitness) very-very important part. The mark we have kept for the people to pass is not very tough. Anyone who is in the team, has to definitely pass the fitness test,” he said.

While Indian batting has been thriving thanks largely to their top-order, the vulnerable middle-order continues to be their Achilles Heels. They have been searching for a dependable batsman at No. 4 and Rayudu has made the spot his own.

However, the form of MS Dhoni, whose finishing prowess is on the wane, is making the headlines. But Arun feels it’s just a matter of time before Dhoni will return to form.

“I think he’s one of the legends of Indian cricket and his striking ability is there for everyone to see. He’s done many a times before. He’s extremely experienced and I’m sure, given the opportunities, he will come really good,” he said.

The fifth and final ODI will be played at the Greenfield International Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday with India leading the five-match series 2-1.