India's fast-bowling riches augur well ahead of T20 World Cup

It will be interesting to note how Virat Kohli marshals his resources ahead of World T20, with Bhuvneshwar, Shami and Chahar in the mix.

Options galore: Rohit Sharma is delighted at the healthy state of India’s pace department.   -  K. V. S Giri

After the series win against Bangladesh in Nagpur last month, Rohit Sharma could not help but express his joy at the increasing number of options at India’s disposal in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup.

“We can try a lot of things before we get on the flight to Australia,” India’s stand-in captain said. “But if we keep performing the way we did today, it’s going to be a big headache for Virat and the selectors.”

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Genuine asset

Perhaps, the most pleasing aspect of the 2-1 defeat of Bangladesh was the emergence of Deepak Chahar, in the absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, as a genuine asset. He had proven himself an able new-ball bowler in the IPL, but in Nagpur, Chahar showed he was capable of bowling at the death too, taking record figures of 6 for 7 to seal a series victory for India. He finished that series with an economy rate of 5.41, the best among the side's bowlers. Chahar has now made a good case for a place in India’s first-choice eleven in Australia.

But Bhuvneshwar and Mohammed Shami have rejoined the Indian squad for this three-match T20I series against the West Indies, which begins here on Friday. It will be interesting to note how Kohli uses his pace bowlers over the three matches, given the choices he now has before him.

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Not surprising

Shami’s inclusion is not entirely surprising. The Bengal fast bowler has been in tremendous form in Test cricket, and has broken into the top 10 in the ICC rankings. His international T20 career, though, has been something of a non-starter. He has played seven matches in a span of three years, last turning out in a T20I in July 2017. India seemed to have decided that he was not one for the shortest format, but his barnstorming success in Test cricket, not to forget his World Cup performances, appear to have prompted a rethink.

Bhuvneshwar is arguably India’s best pace bowler in T20 cricket alongside Jasprit Bumrah. But a side strain and a hamstring injury laid him low in the West Indies, and India will now hope he is able to remain fit leading into the T20 World Cup.

What the Bangladesh series also seems to have done is force the selectors to jettison Khaleel Ahmed, who provided variety as a left-armer, but at a cost. Even without the Rajasthan pacer, though, Kohli has plenty of options to consider.

Bumrah will also return to fitness at some stage, at which point India will have to put some serious thought into what its best group of pace bowlers is. This series could offer some clues.