Mohammed Shami has given Indian team bosses a “good headache” after replacing fellow pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar and taking four wickets, the team’s bowling coach Bharat Arun said on Wednesday.
Shami claimed a hat-trick in India’s narrow win over Afghanistan on Saturday as the two-time champions stayed unbeaten to close in on a semi-final spot.
But the pacer’s place in the starting line-up will not be certain once Kumar, who sat out the Afghanistan game with a hamstring strain and was expected to miss two or three matches, regains full fitness.
Virat Kohli’s India take on struggling West Indies in Manchester on Thursday and bowling coach Bharat Arun said the make-up of the team would depend on conditions. “Bhuvneshwar’s injury is not of any great concern. It is just a niggle, which we didn’t want to take a chance on,” Arun said.
“And it was also an opportunity for us to plug Shami into the games. But the fact he’s done exceptionally well all goes well for us. It’s an embarrassment of riches.
“And we would take a call as per the conditions, but Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar] has done exceptionally well, so I think it’s a pretty good headache to have.”
The 28-year-old Shami is back at the top of his game after dealing with weight issues, injury and a legal quarrel with his estranged wife over the past two years.
He returned with figures of 4/40 in Southampton and ended the Afghanistan innings with a hat-trick after being given the responsibility to bowl the final over.
India are familiar with the West Indies, with many of the Caribbean team playing in the Indian Premier League. “They [West Indies batsmen] do have their strengths. And also it’s a big challenge for the bowlers too – especially when they come after you,” said Arun.
“But whenever batsmen come after you, if you’re willing to look at it deeply, there is a chance in it for the bowlers, and I think that’s what the bowlers would be looking to do.”
Shastri talking to all batsmen
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s inability to rotate strike in the middle overs has been a cause of concern for some time now. On a Hampshire Bowl track where Dhoni struggled to 28 off 52 against Afghanistan, captain Virat Kohli was effortless during his 63-ball stay that fetched 67 runs at a strike-rate of above 100.
But, Arun said Dhoni should not be compared with Kohli on strike rate. “I think Virat Kohli is probably the number one batsman across all formats. So I think to compare anybody to the way he plays is not right,” Arun said.
Asked if Dhoni has been told about his slow batting by the team management, Arun didn’t give a straight answer. He said: “There is a constant dialogue between all the batsmen, the support staff, the batting coach, the head coach – Ravi Shastri has a constant dialogue with all the coaches. I
“I can’t really get into the brass tacks of what we discuss, but yes if I have to answer your question, there is a constant dialogue for us to improve.”
Arun insisted that Dhoni played as per situation in the match against Afghanistan. “I think according to the situation and the condition of the wicket, we were able to successfully defend the total that we put up.
“And had we probably lost a wicket at that stage [when Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav were batting], then things would have turned out differently. So I don’t think it’s too much of a concern for us right now,” Arun said.