Akash Deep Eyed to Fill Bumrah-Shaped Hole in Bowling Line-up

Akash Deep, Mohammed Siraj, and Mukesh Kumar
Akash Deep, Mohammed Siraj, and Mukesh Kumar (Source: X)

In a bygone era, a splendid performance with the bat or ball in the domestic arena would have been confined to the stories and thoughts of a few selectors or players watching the proceedings. Now though, with millions of videos available on the internet, it doesn’t take long for a cricketer’s promise to come into the limelight.

Spool back in time to the fag end of 2019, and yet another Ranji Trophy season had commenced.  Somewhere in the month of December that year, a short YouTube video clip of Akash Deep, a promising pace bowler from Bengal, was uploaded. That young pace bowler bustled to the crease and hurried the Andhra batters off the deck.

In the first innings of his first-class debut, Akash went on to bag a three-for. Unfortunately, due to inclement weather, he didn’t get another opportunity to bowl in that game. But in that one innings, it felt like the batters were surprised by that little bit of extra zip he was getting off the pitch.

It is difficult to sit on a sofa and analyse what is pace off the wicket, as logic would say that all deliveries slow down once released from the hand. But with some seam bowlers, it seems to hasten off the deck, catching the batter by surprise. And that is the key strength of Akash; the bowler expected to replace the rested Jasprit Bumrah for the fourth Test in Ranchi.

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Team India in Rajkot
Team India in Rajkot (Source: BCCI)

Akash has a few other salient features required to succeed on tracks that tend to stay low. He mostly zooms the ball at the stumps and hits the seam. The outcome is that it’s set to move off the pitch via any indentation. Akash’s bowling is also skiddy in nature, as he is around 5′ 8″ in height. So, you expect most of the deliveries to not go over the stumps. To summarise, his methods are quite suited to dislodging the opponent via LBW or bowled modes of dismissal.

Akash has some competition from Mukesh Kumar, who is also originally from Bihar but plays for Bengal. Both of them were part of intense net sessions on February 21 (Wednesday). But by the looks of it, Akash seems to be ahead in the pecking order. The difference between the two might come down to that one trait of Akash: His ability to hurry the opponent off the pitch.

There is also a school of thought that India could end playing four spinners. In such a scenario, Axar Patel would come into the equation. The left-arm orthodox spinner also adds batting depth.

One of the problems with Axar has been his inability to extract enough purchase from the surfaces so far in the series. Right through the first two Tests and also in the series against Australia last year, Axar seemed to be bowling a little too quickly. His average speeds were 92.1 and 91.5 km/hr in the two innings in Hyderabad. And when under pressure, he bowled even quicker in Vizag.

Indian players looking dejected at the ground today. Photo taken by- Debasis Sen
Indian players at the ground. Photo taken by- Debasis Sen

In fact, among all the spinners who bowled in the second Test, only Rehan Ahmed extracted slightly less average turn than Axar. But on a Ranchi surface that might crack up as the game progresses, his attributes – round-arm release and pace through the air – could prove to be a difficult proposition for the English batters.

There are also enough question marks over Rajat Patidar’s place in the XI. The swashbuckling batter from Madhya Pradesh has accumulated a mere 45 runs in four innings so far. He has also got out to some curious-looking dismissals. Having said that, Patidar has enough shots in his artillery to put the pressure back on the bowlers. He perhaps needs to follow in the footsteps of Sarfaraz Khan and play his natural game. India also have the option of replacing Patidar with Devdutt Padikkal.

Despite some lingering doubts over Patidar’s temperament for Test cricket, the main focus for the Indian coaching staff would be on how to fill the humongous Bumrah-shaped hole in the pace-bowling-jigsaw.

Also Read: Knives will be out for Bazball if England Fail in Ranchi

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