After India beat England in an evenly-contested T20 International series, the action shifts to the three-match One Day International series to start from Thursday.
Beating England in their own backyard will not be easy with an in-form Jos Buttler leading the way. The hard-hitting wicketkeeper has been in sensational form and has consistently contributed with the bat in recent months. India already witnessed what he’s capable of in the opening T20I, where he scored 69 and looked comfortable against the Indian bowling attack.
That being said, the absence of Jasprit Bumrah due to injury is probably the biggest concern for the visitors and a major boost for England. The hosts will need to cash in with arguably India’s best bowler in all formats missing from the team. The ever-reliant Bumrah’s absence will mostly be felt in the death over with his usually unerring, controlled and accurate bowling missing from the series.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar is expected to shoulder most of the responsibility in the bowling department, even though he’ll also be making a return from an injury that saw him sit out in the last T20I against England. His new-ball partner will either be Umesh Yadav or Shardul Thakur, both of whom Buttler and the rest of England will be targeting.
Another individual who will need to step up his game to help fill the void left by Bumrah is all-rounder Hardik Pandya. The 24-year-old will have bitter-sweet memories of his last ODI knock in England during the Champions Trophy final, in which he struck a brilliant 43-ball 76 in a losing cause against arch-nemesis Pakistan.
However, it’s his bowling prowess that’s going to be under the scanner in the upcoming series. He heads into the series with batting and bowling averages of 29.90 and 37.38 – numbers he’d certainly prefer switching places. The absence of Bumrah coupled with the relative inexperience of Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal though makes Pandya’s role in the bowling department even more important.
The recent South Africa series saw Pandya complete his allocation of 10 overs just once. The upcoming series though will require him to take more responsibility with the ball against a deep batting line-up like England’s, who are known to end their innings with the wind in their sails. Whether Pandya continues to be a 'half bowler' who can occasionally bowl 60 balls will have a major say in the eventual outcome of the series with India’s need for a sixth bowling option more apparent than ever after Bumrah’s injury.
But more importantly, it’s how India’s collective bowling unit manage to make up for the loss of Bumrah that’s going to define the fortunes of the sides in the series. He is the top-ranked bowler in the world and his injury definitely works in England’s favour. Especially while chasing targets, where Bumrah’s ability to contain the opposition as well as his calm, poise, consistency and control with the ball remains unparalleled.
Words: Sportz Interactive