Former Indian fast bowler Laxmipathy Balaji has stated that he will want India to play Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami as the three fast bowlers in the ICC World Test Championship final against New Zealand. It is expected that Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami will be India’s first-choice fast bowlers.

However, the race for the third seamer could be between Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur. As Ishant has all the experience under his belt, Balaji wants the lanky fast bowler to be part of the final XI.

Meanwhile, Ishant Sharma was India’s highest wicket-taker in the team’s tour of England in 2018 as he had scalped 18 wickets in five matches. Furthermore, Ishant has already toured England on three occasions and he knows the conditions. Balaji believes Ishant’s County cricket experience of playing for Sussex in 2018 will also help him.

“At the moment, I will go with Ishant, Bumrah and Shami as the top three. There is always going to be a selection dilemma, a good dilemma, where the other exceptional talent will put you under pressure. I would look at how the English pitches behave. Ishant has done well there, bowled match-winning spells there, toured with the Test teams three times there. I will use his English county experience of the recent past (Sussex, 2018).

“He is the leader of the pack. I will put Bumrah and Shami with Ishant, three totally different bowlers where Ishant can play defence and the other two can be on the offence. Ishant with the new ball can be on the offence against the left-handers. I will fall back upon Ishant when the situation goes out of control. He can put things back in place,” Balaji told News18.

On the other hand, Balaji believes it is not easy to replace a bowler like Jasprit Bumrah. Balaji feels Mohammed Siraj can play when Bumrah is rested in some of the matches.

“With Bumrah’s talent, you have to see a similar replacement for him. He cannot be identically replaced as he is an exceptionally talented bowler. He is a match-winner. At the same time, you have an opportunity for an identical talent to thrive, say Siraj. The ball pretty much comes out of the hand perpendicular, angles away from the left-hander, straightens for the right-hander. They are almost identical, not exactly the same. The ball path, dismissal patterns are similar to LBW, bowled, caught behind. If Bumrah is not there, who gives almost the same, if not exactly the same, performance?

“Find a formula. Similar tactical discussions will help the captain, the team management, not go straight into defence but look for the offence if Bumrah is not there. India’s Test series win in Australia is a classic case. Without Bumrah and Shami, the Indian bowlers still managed to take 20 wickets. That was tactics and skills matching at the right time,” Balaji said.

The World Test Championship final will take place at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton from June 18.