Mohammed Shami’s replacement: Three players who could step up
India cricket team’s dramatic collapse against Australia on the third day of the first Test match at the Adelaide Oval witnessed the side registering its lowest score in Test history, which was further compounded by an injury to senior fast bowler Mohammed Shami.
Coming into bat at No. 11, the 30-year-old pacer was caught on his right forearm by Pat Cummins’ short bouncer as he was trying to move out of its way. The seriousness of Shami’s injury was evident as the team doctor could be seen tending to his elbow within minutes.
While Mohammed Shami tried to bat again with a strapped-up forearm following a massage and a pain-relief spray, he couldn’t face another ball. He eventually left the field after a prolonged chat with the medical staff.
Post-match scans later revealed that a fractured arm has Shami ruled out of the remaining three Test matches.
As if Virat Kohli’s absence from the second Test match wasn’t concerning enough, the Indian team has now been burdened with the task of finding Mohammed Shami's replacement ahead of the Melbourne Test.
Unfortunately, India’s option to fly in a Shami replacement isn’t available with the 14-day quarantine protocol in place. Hence, here are three Indian players who are available to take Shami’s place in the Indian playing XI for the Boxing Day Test next week.
As far as a like-for-like Mohammed Shami replacement is concerned, India don’t have one. The fact that Shami was rested during India’s limited-overs series just to keep him ready for the four Test matches, speaks volumes about the player’s Test-bowling prowess.
However, in Navdeep Saini, India have a bowler who could match the mighty Australian pace-attack in terms of pace. The well-built Haryana bowler had stunned everyone with his raw pace at the Indian T20 League last season in a match against Mumbai and he remains the fastest Indian bowler to do so in the T20 tournament. Hence, MCG's pitch could assist the 28-year-old who could wreak havoc on the Australian camp by hitting the deck hard.
Saini impressed everyone with his figures of 3/19 during the first innings of India's second practice match against Australia. He has already played seven ODIs and nine T20Is at the international level so far. The Indian pacer has impressed the selectors by claiming 128 First-Class wickets in 46 matches.
Though as inexperienced as Navdeep Saini with the red ball, Mohammed Siraj is likely to be India’s first choice for Mohammed Shami’s replacement in the second Test match.
Yet another fast bowler who claimed fame with his performances in the Indian T20 League, Siraj was used more regularly in the practice matches ahead of the first Test. Siraj did reasonably well, picking up five wickets in the two practice games, which included a three-wicket haul at the Drummoyne Oval.
Though Siraj’s exposure at the international level is limited to just three T20Is and one ODI match, the 26-year-old Hyderabadi has picked 152 wickets in 38 First-class matches at an average of 23.44.
India’s tour of Australia has been a blessing in disguise for Thangarasu Natarajan. The Tamil Nadu bowler was called up to the national squad late as Varun Chakravarthy got injured at the last moment. And his entry into the Test squad could follow a similar pattern.
T Natarajan was a revelation in India’s limited-overs series against Australia, where he took eight wickets in four matches (two in one ODI and six in three T20Is) exhibiting pinpoint yorkers and clever variations.
While T Natarajan is in Australia to serve the purpose of a net bowler, his left-arm pace bowling could become a lethal weapon for India in the absence of veterans like Shami and Ishant Sharma. Natarajan's left-arm angle could really be handy for India as he might also help create some rough for Ravichandran Ashwin like Aussie pacer Starc has been creating for his teammate Nathan Lyon.
The 27-year-old T Natarajan, however, has played only 20 First-Class cricket matches with 64 wickets at an average of 27.03 and a Test debut could be a huge task for him.
Feature Image Courtesy: AFP/ William West