Jasprit Bumrah and K.L. Rahul pass fitness issues with flying colours
Colombo, September 13, 2023
Jasprit Bumrah and K.L. Rahul appear to have proved that their limbs are in order and ready for a tussle. Anything may flare up anytime, but engaged in competitive matches against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the Super 4 round-robin league of the Asia Cup, the fast bowler and the batsman-keeper have given credence to a feeling that they have correctly done their rehabilitation.
Initially, they were looked after by the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru which is headed by former India batsman V.V. S. Laxman and now they are under the care of the medical team travelling with the team. The good news is that they played a part in India’s thumping wins against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
For almost a year, India tried many combinations --- in the absence of Bumrah --- across all formats. India also began to give exposure to Ishan Kishan --- in the absence of Rahul who went under the knife after damaging his thigh in an IPL match on May 1.
The attempts to rush Bumrah back into the thick of action failed in the home ODI series against Sri Lanka in January. Wiser counsel prevailed and Bumrah showed patience for many months, targeting his return for the World Cup in India.
Past lessons --- particularly in the case of Munaf Patel --- revealed that back ailments take a long time to heal. Hardik Pandya is another case, he has come back stronger, although playing in another Test match seems difficult for the Baroda all-rounder.
Bumrah did not get to bowl against Pakistan in a group `A’ match of the Asia Cup in Pallekele and returned home to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Everyone was anxious about how he would face the challenge in the match against Pakistan, notably Babar Azam. The chance arrived here on Monday, the reserve day of the match and on the back of a massive total (356) posted by the India batsman, Bumrah sent down five overs and took the wicket of the left-handed opener Imam-Ul-Haw with a delivery that defeated the batsman of the surface.
In the second match against Sri Lanka at the Khettarama venue and in the presence of a crowd rooting for the home team, Bumrah was full of vim and kept the Sri Lankans on their toes. Pathum Nissanka hammered a widish half volley from the fast bowler to the cover fence, but Bumrah had the last laugh soon with a nip-backer that took the right-hand bat’s edge. Then he had the biggest scalp in the Sri Lanka top half, Kusal Mendis. Sri Lanka did not recover from these two blows. Bumrah returned for the second spell and operating with the old ball he kept the batsmen in check.
Bumrah has played four internationals --- two Twenty20 matches against Ireland and two in the Asia Cup.
He will get two more matches here against Bangladesh and the final and then the three home ODI internationals against Australia in Mohali, Indore and Rajkot. India will play warm-up matches before it takes on Australia in the World Cup match in Chennai on October 8. The Indian team will consider his workload deeply, especially with nine league matches to be played across India. But after the long wait, Bumrah has come back in style.
In the case of Rahul, those who matter in team selection were inclined to wait as long as possible, giving the batsman time to go through the process of rehabilitation under the guidance of the experts at the NCA. The selection committee picked him for the Asia Cup and the World Cup, though he had picked up an unspecified niggle during the six-day camp in Alur.
As look would have it, Rahul was drafted into the team for the match against Pakistan, five minutes before the toss because Shreyas Iyer complained of a back spasm. And he played his part, baulking left-hand seamer Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah and scored a neat and crisp unbeaten century. Virat Kohli who was at the non-striker’s end during the 233-run stand for the undefeated third wicket said: ``I am happy that he’s come back from injury which is great for us.”
After the match against Sri Lanka, Rahul said that he prepared in the last three/four months with a belief that he would come to Sri Lanka and play the first match. ``Initially (in the match against Pakistan) I was a little nervous, but after playing a few balls, I felt normal. I was told at the camp that I would bat in the middle order and keep wicket. So I worked on my wicketkeeping also. Hopefully, I can do both the roles well,’’ Rahul said after India notched a clear-cut win against Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
With him in good nick with the bat and able to do duty with the big gloves, it’s more or less sure that Rahul will be the first-choice batsman-keeper for the World Cup.
The Asia Cup, though hampered by rain, has facilitated the return of Bumrah and Rahul into the mainstream of Indian cricket. Skipper Sharma, the selection committee and the BCCI should feel happy with the outcome of the first three matches of the continental tournament.