Shami surgery adds twist to India’s search for T20 pace options

Mohammed Shami in World Cup and after surgery
Mohammed Shami in World Cup and after surgery (Source: X)

Broadly, news of Mohammed Shami’s Achilles tendon surgery raises two questions. Will he recover for at least a bit of the Indian Premier League (IPL)? What about India’s pace line-up for the T20 World Cup?

The IPL is scheduled from March 22 to May 26. The T20 World Cup in the West Indies and USA starts on June 2. The Indian campaign begins on June 5. Considering the time required for recovery, reconditioning and getting back in shape for high-intensity cricket, training and travel, Shami’s chances of regaining match fitness are negligible.

There is a third question as well. How badly will India miss Shami? Going by his IPL record in the last couple of seasons and his devastating form in the 50-over format before the latest injury, he was an option. Few presented that straight a seam which deviated delicately at pace. On his 50-over World Cup form last year, he would have been in contention for the T20 World Cup.

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There is another way of looking at this. Shami has played three T20 World Cups, including the last two in 2021 and 2022, without ever being a regular in T20Is. After making his debut in this format — at the T20 World Cup in March 2014 — he made only 23 appearances. India played 173 matches in this period.

Be it for his economy rate of 8.94 in return for 24 wickets, injury breaks, rotation and rest, form or something else, Shami has been treated by the national team as a bowler for the longer versions. He didn’t play for India in T20Is after November 2022. He is getting old. Saying that Shami would be a huge loss and fretting over it is the last thing that the selectors and the team will do.

This makes the second question most important. And this is not easy to answer at this moment. A lot might depend on the IPL performances and whether Hardik Pandya resumes bowling. If he does, the options will be weighed in a certain way. If not, there could be changes in thoughts.

Mohammed Shami after surgery
Mohammed Shami after surgery (Source: Shami/X)

It can be assumed that there will be four specialist fast bowlers in the squad. If fit, Jasprit Bumrah walks in. Arshdeep Singh has been groomed as a T20I specialist and he has taken 62 wickets in 44 matches since his debut in July 2022. He bowls at the death and appears to be another certainty.

The rest is unclear. Mohammed Siraj is rarely considered for T20Is. Mukesh Kumar played in the recent past and so did Avesh Khan. Shivam Mavi and Umran Malik were in the mix until early 2023. Akash Deep can come into the picture and so can Yash Dayal, after some good outings for India A against England Lions, albeit in four-day games. Deepak Chahar cannot be ruled out either.

IPL will carry a lot of marks in determining all this and finalising at least two fast-bowling slots for the T20 World Cup. Chances of somebody not mentioned above making an impact and breaking into reckoning cannot be dismissed. Shami’s surgery, on the last leg of a creditable career, opens possibilities. The process to find successors offers a look at the future.

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