Kolkata: If India, humbled in home conditions only a few months ago, are suddenly the team to beat in the World Twenty20, a great deal of the credit for the turnaround must go to the bowling unit.
India pacer Mohammed Shami celebrates a wicket during the 2015 World Cup match against Zimbabwe in Auckland. Pic/Getty Images
Having been flogged by AB de Villiers & Co last October, it is now a handful for opposing batsmen, and has been playing its part in the surge. Among other achievements, it accounted for a historic sweep of the T20 series in Australia and the recent lifting of the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, fought for in the game’s shortest format for the first time.
Today, when they launch their World T20 campaign with a warm-up joust against the West Indies at Eden Gardens, ‘favourites’ India will be hoping to boost the bowling further. Mohammed Shami, skipper MS Dhoni’s go-to bowler till recurring hamstring injury kept him away from action. “He’s in the 15, so he’ll definitely play tomorrow (Thursday),” Team Director Ravi Shastri said yesterday.
Team Director Ravi Shastri with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni during a practice session at Eden Gardens in Kolkata yesterday. Pic/PTI
The right-arm pacer, who troubles batsmen by moving the ball both ways, and was the joint highest wicket-taker at the 2015 World Cup (50-50) in Australia. Dhoni had stressed upon his importance to the attack at a media interaction on the day the team had left for the Asia Cup when asked why the pacer was being persisted with in spite of his carrying the injury.
Shami has been in a rehab programme at the NCA in Bangalore, and bowling at the nets. Today, all eyes will be on him and many fingers crossed.
‘Credit to bowling coach’
Shastri was quick to point out that India’s bowling blues had a lot to do with injury layoffs. “In the South African series, we lost Ashwin after he bowled three overs in the first game. We have not had Shami since the World Cup,” he pointed out, adding: “We had to look for some new players. I’m glad Ashish (Nehra), Jasprit (Bumrah) and (Hardik) Pandya grabbed the opportunity with both hands. You must give credit to (bowling coach) Bharat (Arun).”
Shami’s overall Twenty20 stats
Matches – 42
Balls – 862
Wickets – 52
Best bowling figures – 4/24
Average – 20.25
Econ rate – 7.32
Strike rate – 16.5