While India’s fortunes fluctuated like an unscrewed pendulum before plummeting into complete disarray in England, the one grapnel that remained secure and steadfast was the bowling of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The wiry swing bowler not only delivered almost every time his captain tossed the ball to him, he also inked himself in as the mainstay of India’s fast-bowling arsenal. Kumar will, however, have to cheer his team on from the bench, at least at the start of the Test series Down Under, after he was ruled out for the first two matches owing to an injured left ankle.
Although the official release from the team management said that the 24-year-old could be available for selection even for the series opener in Adelaide, The Indian Express has learnt that he will not be fit for action before the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.
Kumar didn’t bowl or field during the second practice game played at the Glenelg Oval earlier this week. He did have a light session near the nets as the first day wore down, but he was accompanied by the physiotherapist and an ice-pack. And he was completely absent during India’s training session at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday, neither appearing near the nets nor at the main ground, where the team did their fielding drills.
Kumar had never played a Test overseas when he snared five wickets at Trent Bridge in July. He followed that up with a six-wicket haul at Lord’s to set up a historic win.
Shami or Yadav?
With Kumar now ruled out, the visitors will now have to choose between Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav for the third fast bowler’s slot. Shami and Yadav bowled in tandem incidentally on Sunday, and both had their moments. Shami with a full delivery that swung past the bat of Ajinkya Rahane and Yadav with a sharp in-swinger that would have trapped Naman Ojha right in front. Shami’s returns from England were poor and his five wickets came at 73.20 apiece. His failure had prompted a number of calls for the recall of the pacy Yadav.
In many ways, he was the pick of India’s previous tour to Australia, where he not only took wickets but also troubled the likes of Ricky Ponting and Shaun Marsh. And following an impressive outing in the ODIs against Sri Lanka back home, Yadav has looked to have regained the kind of rhythm that helped him taste success on these pitches.
If Yadav does play, India will finally go into a Test match on foreign soil with an attack which is genuinely a pacy one. For, like they showed at practice, Varun Aaron and Ishant Sharma will form an exciting combination with the new ball. The duo was quick and incisive in their bursts on Sunday.
But having said that, Kumar’s breakdown means that India will lack the unassuming stability that the lanky medium-pacer brought to their attack in England.