India has a selection dilemma concerning its pace bowling when it takes on Pakistan in its first match of the 2022 T20 World Cup in Melbourne next Sunday.
In such a scenario, India’s first practice match against Australia in Brisbane on Monday assumes more importance for head coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma, who are likely to try out different bowling combinations over the next two warmups. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh likely to be certainties, the toss up for the third seamer’s will be between Mohammad Shami and Harshal Patel.
Shami has replaced Jasprit Bumrah, who is out of the tournament due to a back injury. Shami has not played any cricket for the last three months, having last been part of a tour of England in July. He was part of India's T20I series against Australia and South Africa but had to be withdrawn after testing positive for Covid-19.
Shami last played a T20I at the 2021 World Cup in the UAE in November. He picked up six wickets from five games at an economy of 8.84 in the tournament. However, he was part of the 2022 IPL title-winning Gujarat Titans and finished as the team's highest wicket-taker with 20 wickets.
India also has the option of playing Harshal, who will feature in a World Cup for the first time. Harshal only recently recovered from a rib injury that kept him out of action for six weeks and had average returns with the ball during the recent T20I series against Australia. In three matches, he took just one wicket at an economy rate of 12.37.
In India's second practice match against Western Australia XI, Harshal bowled four overs for 27 and took two wickets. Harshal also gives India a batting option at No. 8.
India's death bowling has been a concern heading into the event. In all T20s, for which ball-by-ball data is available, Shami has 61 wickets in 77 innings at 10.71. Meanwhile, Harshal has 54 wickets in 69 innings at 10.13 during the same phase.
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