India faces problem of plenty ahead of challenging SA tour

There will be some key decisions for the Indian team to make in a country where it has never won a Test series.

India paceman Jasprit Bumrah brings with him an attacking length. Photo: AP

Jasprit Bumrah finds a place in the Indian team for the three-match Test series against South Africa starting in January. The national selectors on Monday announced a 17-member team, which included Parthiv Patel as the reserve wicketkeeper.

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The logic behind the inclusion of Bumrah in the Indian Test team for South Africa cannot be faulted.

The lanky Gujarat paceman brings with him an attacking length. He combines pace with precision, and has the ability to swing games under pressure.

Speed in the air – the potent yorker is a rather forgotten delivery in the longer formats these days – can provide critical breakthroughs.

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Bumrah moves the new ball away – his fullish length can draw batsmen into fatal attempted drives - and reverses the older sphere.

His whippy, deceptive and ‘long-lever’ action that sees him loading up very much away from his body and release the ball from a fully stretched and straight hand is hard to pick. And his odd, quick short-pitched delivery tends to follow the batsman.

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Impressive first-class record

These are attributes that can succeed in Test cricket as well. For someone who has made his name in the shorter formats, Bumrah’s numbers in first class cricket are creditable.

He has 89 wickets in 26 matches at 25.33 and his scorching burst of six for 29 buried Jharkhand in the Ranji Trophy semifinal last season.

While Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav are the first three pace choices, Ishant Sharma, Bumrah and seam-bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya provide depth to a compelling pace attack.

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Pace department lacks variety

Bowlers win matches and the selectors must have thought long and hard about including left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav. Given its pace riches, however, India might field only one spinner in the eleven and the side already had Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. There was little chance of Kuldeep actually getting a game.

Ashwin is the No. 1 spinner and his batting ability – he is sound off his back-foot – on bouncy pitches adds to his value in what will be a demanding campaign.

It must be said here that the lack of a left-arm seamer in the side not only deprives the side of variety but also leaves it without someone who can create the rough for the off-spinner to exploit.

The selection of batsmen is along expected lines and Parthiv Patel – he performed reasonably against England last season - pips Dinesh Karthik for the reserve wicket-keeper batsman’s slot.

Problem of plenty

The think-tank is however left with three in-form opening batsmen in Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and K.L. Rahul and might be tempted to play all three in the eleven with one of them assigned the job of coping with the second new ball.   

Will India field an additional batsman or opt for an extra bowler with Pandya’s all-round abilities lending balance? Does the team-management have sufficient faith in Pandya’s bowling in Tests as a support seamer just in case it wants to play two spinners?

There will be some key decisions for the Indian team to make in a country where it has never won a Test series.

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