Dublin: Almost 11 months after he hobbled off the field, Jasprit Bumrah will be cynosure of all eyes when he leads India against Ireland as the fast bowler’s fitness and rhythm will be tested in the three-match T20 International series, starting Friday.
The team is packed with India’s Gen-Next IPL performers like Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rinku Singh and Jitesh Sharma but stakeholders in Indian cricket will keenly observe Bumrah, who will be key to home team’s plans during the ODI World Cup starting in less than two months.
The 29-year-old Bumrah is coming back after undergoing a surgery to treat the lower-back stress fractures he had suffered during a home series against Australia ahead of T20 World Cup, last year.
He will be bowling a maximum of just 12 overs across three games over five days but this series will allow chairman of selectors Ajit Agarkar, ODI captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid to get a fair idea of where the Gujarat slinger is placed in terms of match fitness.
The 50-over cricket is, though, a different beast where he will need to bowl 10 overs across two, three or may be four-over spells.
The BCCI, on its official social media handle, released Bumrah’s bowling video, where he was seen hurrying a right-hander with a well-disguised short-ball and then almost yorked a left-hander with a toe-crusher, a soothing sight for the Indian team management.
But match situation will be completely different and both Dravid and Rohit have once burnt their hands by rushing him too early before the T20 World Cup in Australia last year.
The results were disastrous. That was the last series he played before the longest lay-off of his seven-year international career.
He was named for a home series earlier this year, only to be pulled out at the eleventh hour as he underwent a surgery to treat a career-threatening injury.
The Ireland series not only gives Bumrah an ideal opportunity to add miles to his legs but will also help him get ready for the Asia Cup, where he will be pitted against the likes of Babar Azam upfront on September 2.
Ireland, led by Andrew Balbirnie with useful players like Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, left-arm spinner George Dockrell are a quality side in the shortest format even though they are yet to win a match against India till now.
Their left-arm seamer Josh Little was an integral part of Gujarat Titans squad last year and wouldn’t mind to show what he is capable of against an Indian team full of performers.
The players in this Indian team, save Bumrah and Sanju Samson, will be vying for gold medal at the Asian Games in Hangzhou and the core team would be keen to make most of the three T20Is.
The one player, whose place would surely be under the scanner is Sanju Samson. He is unlikely to get into the playing XI unless head coach Sitanshu Kotak gets a standing instruction from main team management to play the Kerala man ahead of Asia Cup.
Two exciting IPL finds — Jitesh and Rinku are expected to get their T20 India caps while Shivam Dube would be itching for a shot at redemption.
Just like Bumrah, even Prasidh Krishna is making a comeback to competitive cricket and before his lower back stress fracture injury which also required a surgery, the Bengaluru fast bowler was a certainty in ODI set-up.
It is expected that selectors would check out Krishna’s form before taking a final call on the Asia Cup squad expected to be announced by the end of this week.
It will be interesting to see how players and the team management balance individual and team goals while keeping the big picture in mind.
Squads: India: Jasprit Bumrah (C), Ruturaj Gaikwad (VC), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Sanju Samson (wk), Jitesh Sharma (wk), Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Ravi Bishnoi, Prasidh Krishna, Arshdeep Singh, Mukesh Kumar, Avesh Khan.
Ireland: Andrew Balbirnie (captain), Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Ross Adair, Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Fionn Hand, Josh Little, Barry McCarthy, Ben White, Craig Young, Theo van Weorkom.
Match Starts: 7:30 pm IST.