T20 World Cup 2021: Will India pick Shardul against New Zealand?

Bhuvneshwar Kumar hasn’t been a consistent wicket-taker in powerplays even in the IPL over the last couple of years. Shardul Thakur has the ability to bowl at any stage of the game.

Shardul Thakur in action during an ODI game against England in Pune earlier this year.   -  SPORTZPICS/BCCI

India’s decision to utilise Bhuvneshwar Kumar as the third pacer ahead of Shardul Thakur in its T20 World Cup 2021 opening game against Pakistan was a surprise. The move did not work as the swing bowler was smashed for a four and a six in the first over of Pakistan’s chase.

Bhuvneshwar’s preference over Shardul could have been based on past laurels and not current form.

Historically, Bhuvneshwar has been extremely useful in T20Is in the powerplay, be it in the Indian Premier League or international games. His economy rate of 5.72 in T20Is is a testament to his utility at the start of the innings. But over the past decade, the right-arm pacer hasn’t appeared to be as effective at the death. It is due to the lack of swing towards the end of a T20I innings across the globe.

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But in the United Arab Emirates, where a seamer seldom gets assistance either in the air or off the surface, it’s the artistry of a bowler’s wrist combined with his ability to generate pace that becomes crucial. Pakistan left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi bowled at 140+kph consistently against India, but he also managed to move the ball close to a degree, which is exceptional considering the conditions. He got rid of India’s openers in each of his first overs.

Bhuvneshwar, on the other hand, hasn’t been a consistent wicket-taker in powerplays even in the IPL over the last couple of years.

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Shardul’s uncanny ability to strike against the odds in the middle overs, thanks to his cross-seam bowling and change of pace, has come in handy for his IPL franchise. He can bowl his four overs at any stage of the innings, plus he is a useful lower-order batsman.

India captain Virat Kohli had backed Bhuvneshwar ahead of the tournament, citing the last over he bowled to AB de Villiers in the IPL. It will be interesting to see if Kohli thinks differently ahead of the must-win clash against New Zealand on October 31.

In Powerplay
                                      Inns.   Wkts.   Avge.   Econ.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar:       184     77      29.09   5.92
Shardul Thakur:                  67    23      38.04   9.02

In middle overs
                                      Inns.   Wkts.   Avge.   Econ.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar       92      28        28.92   7.83
Shardul Thakur                70      34        24.82   7.86

At the death
                                      Inns.   Wkts.   Avge.   Econ.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar       145       87     21.25   9.28
Shardul Thakur                  60      41     20.46   10.29

Stats courtesy: ESPNcricinfo

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