New Delhi: Ishant Sharmas immense experience could take precedence over Umesh Yadav’s classic outswingers as Indian team management focuses on replacing an injured Mohammed Siraj for the series-defining final test against South Africa.
Siraj, who suffered a hamstring strain while pitching on the first night of the second Test, only managed 15.5 overs in the two innings and coach Rahul Dravid admitted his injury affected team strategy as he defended 240 in the fourth innings .
Dravid had said it is difficult to say whether Siraj will be fit in the coming days, as hamstring injuries do not heal so easily. They require extensive rest and rehabilitation, especially for fast bowlers, who have a lot more work to do than batters.
Against this background, India has two options for the Newlands test that starts on January 11. One is 33-year-old Ishant, who has not been in the best shape but has experience in over 100 tests and is a workhorse.
The other is 34-year-old Umesh, who has 51 tests to his name and has outperformed Ishant in the recent past, who also seemed to have lost a bit of pace with age catching up.
But both Dravid and skipper Virat Kohli, who is widely expected to make a comeback from his back injury in the final game, may prefer the lanky Delhi speedster for multiple reasons.
One of the biggest reasons could be his height of nearly 6 feet 3 and a half inches, which could help create those awkward lengths for the Proteas batters, something home team pacers like Marco Jansen and Duanne Olivier have enjoyed.
“It just felt like the ball misbehaved a bit more for them, and that could be” [because of the] fact of height. On up and down wickets having that extra height can sometimes make a small difference so it just felt to us [that] the balls weren’t acting that much,’ Dravid had said.
Even former chairman of selectors MSK Prasad agreed that Ishant should be the choice.
“We missed a tall fast bowler in Johannesburg and the only one we have is Ishant. He is my choice for Umesh on tracks like this. If it had been an Indian job that is rough and feels like a dustbin, Umesh would be my ‘go to’ guy. ”
The ideal length on South African courses is somewhere between the back of the length (short) and the right length (6 meters).
It is indeed a tough one, says former India keeper Deep Dasgupta, who feels that despite Ishant being off the boil for the last few games, he is still the preferred choice at Newlands.
“I can’t say if Kohli has the same confidence in Ishant’s abilities as he had until 2019. But even then, if played, Ishant could come in handy compared to Umesh.
“First, he would hit greater distances at that height, and second, because of his ability to keep the batters still for long periods of time, which unfortunately didn’t happen on a bowler-friendly lane with the Wanderers,” Dasgupta told PTI.
“Ishant can throw a good eight to ten on a spell and if we see the trend a first innings score of 275 is the new 350 in Test games under these conditions.
“Ishant also throws that fourth stump line where the ball can straighten or cut back enough for the batters to play. But yeah, team management will also be looking at their practice form,” Dasgupta.
In Umesh’s case, he bowls longer, gets that deadly outswing his way with 140 clicks, but the question is whether India can afford to play a bowler who tends to bowl too many boundary balls.
This habit of Umesh can prove very expensive in low score games, where periods of rest created by defensive bowlers are like gold dust.
Effect of high tide and ebb
As at the former WACA site in Perth, where afternoon sessions helped swing bowlers with sideways movement due to the ‘Freemantle Doctor’ – afternoon sea breezes blowing across the ground – some sessions in Cape Town are guided by the effect of high tides and low tides, estimated Dasgupta, who had played here in 2002.
“Newlands Stadium is by the sea and there are times when there is high tide and then there is more movement in the air and off the pitch.
“This is because when the tide is high the temperature gets a bit cooler and so there is some split in the air. The exact opposite happens at low tide when it gets a bit warmer and there may not be much for the bowlers.
“In either case, Ishant is a better bet to bowl offensively or defensively, depending on the needs of the team,” Dasgupta said.
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