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Explained: Why Bumrah and Shami’s ODI, T20 outings in Australia can hurt India’s World Test Championship aspirations

The Indian team management will have to take a call on either playing their two premier fast bowlers, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, in the limited-overs matches or keeping them fresh for the Test series.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty , Edited by Explained Desk | Kolkata | Updated: December 1, 2020 12:59:25 pm
Jasprit Bumrah Mohammed Shami, india vs australia, ind vs aus, ind vs aus live score, ind vs aus live, cricket, live cricketJasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami. (AP Photos/File)

A four-Test series will follow three ODIs and three T20Is during India’s tour of Australia that starts on Friday. The Indian team management will have to take a call on either playing their two premier fast bowlers, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, in the limited-overs matches or keeping them fresh for the Test series.

Why is workload management important for Bumrah and Shami?

The Test series commences on December 17 in Adelaide and finishes on January 19 in Brisbane. So, India have to play 20 days of long-form cricket in 32 days if every match goes the distance. It will be hard work for the players, especially fast bowlers, in Southern summer and mostly batting-friendly pitches. Also, Australian grounds are hard, which takes a toll on the bowlers’ body, back muscles in particular.

As per the statistics put out by the BCCI, Indian fast bowlers have taken 292 wickets in 24 Tests over the last two years. Bumrah (68) and Shami (61) have accounted for 129 of those wickets. The tally highlights their importance, as India will try to defend the rubber. During India’s triumphant tour of Australia in 2018-19, Bumrah had taken 21 wickets in four Tests, while Shami returned with 16 scalps from four matches. India can ill afford to lose them to injuries during the Test series.

What could be the downside of playing limited-overs matches?

The three ODIs would be played on November 27, 29 and December 2, while the T20Is are on December 4, 6 and 8. So there’s virtually no recovery time in between. Bumrah and Shami played 15 and 14 matches in the Indian Premier League (IPL) respectively and served a 14-day quarantine period in Australia thereafter, along with other players. According to experts, it is wiser to get into the groove slowly after a break.

Why is slow burn important, especially during a season affected by the pandemic?

After a break, it takes time to regain peak fitness and match fitness. “One very, very important thing for a lot of people to remember is that you cannot catch up your fitness, you can’t do more now to get back faster. That is the quickest way to land up with an injury. If you want to minimise your risk of injury, then you need to go slowly,” Heath Matthews, sports medicine head at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai told The Indian Express.

He added: “Basically, it’s all about what we call load management — how much load are you putting your body under? And then how quickly are you putting more and more load on your body? And are you giving your body enough time for recovery and adaptation and developing strength over a period of time?” 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

How are Bumrah and Shami placed with regards to their injury history?

Shami had suffered a career-threatening knee injury after the 2015 World Cup. He, however, returned stronger. By his own admission, Shami has seriously worked on his fitness of late which helped improve his bowling.

A back stress fracture had sidelined Bumrah after the last year’s World Cup. Modern-day cricketers play almost non-stop cricket, although they had an elongated Covid-forced break this season. It should be kept in mind that unlike Kapil Dev for example, Bumrah and Shami are not natural athletes.

But without Bumrah and Shami, India won’t be full-strength in limited-overs fixtures, isn’t it?

Apart from their proven pedigree, Bumrah and Shami are in-form bowlers as well. Bumrah was the second-highest wicket-taker in the IPL with 27 scalps. Shami was eighth in the list – 20 wickets. Both are death overs specialists. Of course India would be depleted without them. At the same time, to put things in context, the Test series is more important for India than the limited-overs leg of the series. This is not only because of the marquee nature of the contest, but also for the fact that Australia have overtaken India in the World Test Championship (WTC) leader-board following the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) decision to restructure the qualification system for the final, to be played in June next year.

Jasprit Bumrah Mohammed Shami, india vs australia, ind vs aus, ind vs aus live score, ind vs aus live, cricket, live cricket

As per the old system, India were the table-toppers with 360 points followed by Australia on 296 points. But now, as the ICC has made the percentage of points (PCT) won out of total number of points contested (each series has 120 points) all-important, Australia have overtaken India – a PCT of 82 percent compared to India’s 75 per cent. The top two teams will qualify for the final and both England and New Zealand remain serious top-two contenders. So from India’s perspective, the Test series in Australia is not just about defending the rubber. Virat Kohli and Co also have to think about the WTC final.

So the limited-overs games are not important?

Every international fixture is important. But the next 50-over World Cup is in 2023, while the next T20 World Cup is in October-November 2021. Both Bumrah and Shami will walk into the Indian squad for the T20 World Cup if they are fit. The series that will be played in the lead-up provides an opportunity to the selectors and the team management to assess their backups.

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Is it difficult to make a switch from the limited-overs mode to Test mode?

Not so much for the bowlers of Bumrah and Shami’s experience. Then again, as Shami told BCCI.tv the other day, he is concentrating more on red-ball cricket at the moment. “My focus area has been the red ball and I am working on my lengths and seam movement,” he said.

How important it is for Bumrah to last four Tests?

Cricket historian Gideon Haigh summed it up when he spoke to The Indian Express. “He’s (Bumrah) one of a kind. But the trouble with such important cricketers is that it creates a disproportionate dependence on them. In case of an injury, there’s no like for like replacement for them. It’s not like someone else can step in and have the same impact bowling like him. So the challenge for him will be to last the four Tests,” Haigh said.

What are the Indian team management’s plans?

It is learnt that the Indian team management intends to rotate Bumrah and Shami during the limited-overs series to manage their workload.

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