Virat Kohli’s Team India will be remembered for its bowlers. India have had some extraordinary batsmen like Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma in limited overs cricket, Cheteshwar Pujara in Tests and Kohli himself across formats, but the spine of India’s successes over the past couple of years, especially in series away from home, has been their bowlers.
Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal managed to push Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja out of the picture in limited overs cricket and have ran through entire batting lineups on a number of occasions. Mohammed Shami overcame fitness issues to go from being on the verge of permanent exile from the national team to taking a World Cup hat-trick to win a match for them.
The rise of Jasprit Bumrah has been the most striking among all this. He has taken no time in establishing his credentials of being one of the best pacers in the world since he burst on to the scene in limited overs cricket and subsequently made his Test debut.
Bumrah helped India not feel the absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, whose injuries seem to have interrupted what was otherwise a burgeoning international career. The 25-year-old has been tossed the ball by Kohli whenever India needed a wicket and he delivered.
It will hence be interesting to see what India’s bowling performances will look like in their tour of West Indies. Kuldeep and Chahal Bumrah is not playing the limited overs series while Kuldeep and Chahal have been rested for the three-match T20 series while Bumrah is only playing in the two Tests that follows the limited overs leg of the tour.
The standout quotes from Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri’s press conference before the team’s departure for the tour may have been about the purported rift between the Indian skipper and Rohit. But Kohli did speak about this change in the bowling department.
“When I met the selectors the basic message from them was to try out a few players they had in mind. I am particularly excited for the three T20Is because of the new guys coming in,” he said.
Off the new faces in the team for the T20Is, 26-year-old Navdeep Saini and 19-year-old Rahul Chahar are making their debuts. Deepak Chahar has played one ODI for India — the tied Asia Cup 2018 game against Afghanistan, Washington Sundar has one ODI and seven T20Is under his belt while Khaleel Ahmed has played eight ODIs and nine T20Is.
Apart from the newbies, Ravindra Jadeja could play his first T20I since July 2017. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is in the squad as he tries to get back to his lethal best.
This means that when India start out their T20 series at Lauderhill, Florida, they will be without their three biggest sources of wickets over the past couple of years.
The selectors drew a lot of flack for the batsmen they chose for this tour and it has been inferred that India are not starting their preparation for the 2020 World T20 with this series. However, one could argue that the selection of new bowlers coupled with experienced heads trying to rediscover their mojo means that the think tanks are shuffling their cards a bit to see what lies beneath their usual lineup of dependable bowlers.
It means that this series, particularly the T20s, will be one of those rare occasions when all eyes will be on how the Indian bowlers fare. Some of these players could be looking back on this series many years down the line as the one that changed their career — for better or for worse.