Lack of Pace Bowling All-Rounders: Who can be the Back-Up?

Importance of Pace Bowling All-Rounders:

Pace bowling all-rounders play a pivotal role in any team’s combination. They add batting depth at the end, work as a decent bowling option and more importantly work as an alternative to help the skipper when the prime bowlers in the team have a bad day. When we have a look at the top white-ball teams, we see quite a few all-rounders in their team. This manifests the demand for fast bowling all-rounders.

What’s the definition of an ideal pace bowling all-rounder? An all-rounder who can give his full quota of overs. Moreover, he must fit into the team as a batsman too. He must have the ability to hit sixes and should be capable to build the innings whenever needed.

Problem with the Indian team:

It was during the 2018 Asia Cup league-stage encounter against arch-rivals Pakistan when Hardik Pandya suffered a critical back injury. Hardik was stretchered off the field and was out of action for almost 3 months.

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Although he did play the World cup later, Hardik hasn’t been bowling post the injury. He’s not perfectly fit to bowl at the moment. This issue is serious because India has failed to produce genuine fast bowling all-rounders. We don’t have anyone to work as a back-up fast bowling all-rounder for Hardik Pandya. The Indian team already has two specialist spinners in Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, and the team is less likely to choose a spin bowling all-rounder as that would mean 3 spinners in the team. Going with 3 spinners away from home is a bad choice.

India did choose Jadeja in the current ODI series against Australia, the reason being: Hardik Pandya isn’t bowling. To be more precise, let’s look at India’s team in the World cup 2019 when Hardik Pandya was bowling.

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Earlier, we had 5 specialist batsmen including the wicket-keeper followed by Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav. Hardik and Jadhav used to split 10 overs among them while bowling. Currently, Jadeja who almost plays the same role as Jadhav, has to bowl 10 overs on his own, given that Hardik isn’t bowling.

It’s a huge disadvantage to go with 5 bowling options on Australian pitches where bowlers usually struggle. Hence, it’s evident how much important Hardik Pandya is to the side. To add more to it, he’s having a magnificent time as a number 6 batsman. Hence, the team can’t afford replacing him with a specialist batsman.

As Hardik is a prime asset of Indian white-ball team, India needs a few back-up options for him. As mentioned earlier, India has struggled to produce good fast bowling all-rounders. There are quite a few choices in the coming future but as of now, we just have a couple of them:

Choices:

Vijay Shankar:

A genuine all-rounder has been rare in Indian cricket over the years. Being a solid middle-order batsman and more than handy with the ball makes Vijay Shankar an efficient all-rounder for the Indian team in both T20s and ODIs. He was opted for the number 4 spot by the selectors in the World Cup 2019 but was ruled out later due to toe injury. He has given quite a few good performances as an all-rounder. Vijay Shankar was decent with the bat in the IPL as he proved to be a sheet anchor for SRH. His standout performance as a bowler came in the match against Australia where he defended 11 runs in the last over.

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Vijay Shankar could be considered as a back-up for Pandya. He can provide similar dimensions which Pandya offers in white-ball cricket.

Shivam Dube:

Shivam Dube is also a good choice in T20’s. He has the ability to hit sixes and can work as a finisher in T20’s. Having played just one ODI, he hasn’t got much exposure in ODI’s yet. India can’t confidently look at him as a back-up in ODI’s at the moment, but they can definitely try him out. Interestingly in IPL, he served as a death bowler for RCB early in the tournament and he did a decent job.

He has missed his line and length quite often and so is a risky prospect. Having said that, the Indian selection committee has to look at him as a future replacement as they don’t have many options to go with.

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The lack of a genuine pace-bowling all-rounder is a serious issue which BCCI needs to address as soon as possible. This is a big dilemma for the skipper as well because we have batsmen who can’t bowl and bowlers who can’t bat. Even skipper Virat Kohli addressed this issue:


“Unfortunately, Hardik is not fit enough to bowl, and we don’t have other all-round options to pick from either, someone like Stoinis or Maxwell”.

Virat Kohli after first ODI vs Australia

Featured Image: BCCI | Twitter

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