With the clock ticking towards the first Test match of the Border-Gavaskar trophy, the third-pacer debate is heating up. India’s Test-specialist Ishant Sharma is out of the tour with an injury, so they will have to choose between Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, and Mohammed Siraj.
Saini was expected to be the first-choice replacement for Sharma, but his performances in the ODI series and a slight injury scare have made his chances bleak. Siraj has an impressive record in India’s first-class matches, but is untested on the international level yet.
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell revealed a conversation on drinks with Indian head coach Ravi Shastri. He said that according to Shastri, Umesh Yadav could get the nod ahead of Siraj and Saini.
“I was having a drink with Ravi (Shastri) the other day and he told me that probably (Umesh) Yadav will get the nod as the third pacer,” Chappell told PTI.
Umesh Yadav playing against Australia brings contradicting memories to mind.
In the 2017 edition of the Border-Gavaskar trophy in India, the 33-year-old was the highest wicket-taker among the fast-bowlers. He brought his fiery pace and controlled reverse swing to good use against the Aussies to take 17 wickets at an average of 23.4.
This included the memorable spell of 3-29 in the Dharamshala Test, where he rattled both the openers cheaply and help India restrain Australia to just 137.
However, his records upend in overseas conditions. For instance, in 2018, on a green wicket in Perth, India went with a 4-pacers attack. While Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Ishant all bowled cannonballs, Umesh Yadav had to be hidden from the Aussie batsmen.
In the second innings of that game, Yadav was belted for 61 runs in his 14 overs without a wicket. Umesh was the evident weak link in the low-scoring encounter as India lost their only Test of the tour.
Pace, bounce, stamina, out-swing, reverse-swing, Umesh Yadav has got all the attributes to be successful in Australia. However, his propensity of being erratic too often makes him a difficult choice.
He has started well, though. In the recently-concluded 3-day warm-up game, Umesh was by far the best Indian bowler. Australia ‘A’s centurion Cameron Green also said that it was difficult to face him. India will get another chance to test him in the 2nd warm-up game that starts on Friday.
If Umesh Yadav eventually gets a go, he will have to bring all his experience and dexterity forward to get the home-bully tag off his chest.