Selectors must not waste away promising performers like Umran, Shubman

As India continue to be in chaos due to a patchy run in the white-ball matches, there have been some glimmer of hope in performances of youngsters like Shubman Gill and Umran Malik, who have been given chances courtesy the rest given to first-choice players.

Gill, 23, has done well in his ODI career so far, especially in this year. He had scores of 50, 45 not out and 13 in the recent ODI series in New Zealand. But in a lack of clarity call by the now-sacked selection committee, Gill was not picked for India’s ongoing ODIs against Bangladesh.

2022 has been a year where Gill has really showed he can be a useful batter for India in ODI cricket. In 12 matches, he has scored 638 runs at an average of 70.88 and strike-rate of 102.57, including a maiden ODI ton against Zimbabwe and four half-centuries. His strike rate is higher than veteran left-handed opener Shikhar Dhawan too.

It has also been a year where Gill’s prowess in T20s came to the fore. In Gujarat Titans’ run to IPL 2022 trophy, Gill scored 483 runs in 16 innings, averaging 34.5 and strike rate of 132.32.

In six matches for Punjab in the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he scored 260 runs at an average of 52 and strike-rate of 156.62, including a century and fifty.

Gill’s form in ODI cricket, with Player of the series awards in ODI victories over West Indies and Zimbabwe, is enough to keep Dhawan, Rohit and even Virat Kohli on their toes. He brings in an element of dynamism and fluency, can rotate strike very well, and brings out conventional as well as reverse sweeps in the middle overs.

Yuvraj Singh, the ‘Player of the Tournament’ in India’s 2011 ODI World Cup victory at home, has already declared Gill as a huge contender to open the innings in 2023 ODI World Cup. “I think Shubman is doing very well and progressing very nicely in his career. I really feel that he should be a strong contender to open for India in the 2023 World Cup.”

“Shubman is very hardworking, is on the absolute right path and I see him going towards greatness in the next 10 years,” he said on the sidelines of the inauguration of the 3rd T20 World Cup for the Blind.

Malik, on the other hand, had debuted in ODIs against New Zealand at Auckland on November 25, picking 2/66 and then took 1/31 in a washed-out match at Christchurch on November 30. Since the time he grabbed attention in IPL 2020 and 2021 with his searing pace, Malik’s cricketing graph has gone up.

For Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2022, Malik had been their middle-overs enforcer – a role where the bowler is aiming to get wickets for his team when the batters are looking to build the innings, something which India can develop too.

In their ODI series loss to Bangladesh, India were left without attacking bowlers in the middle overs, 11-40 overs, as the hosts’ managed to get over the line. If the same situation repeats in the ODI World Cup, especially when pitches ease out, the responsibility will be huge on bowling teams to try and stop the partnerships from going big.

According to ESPNCricinfo, since the start of 2020, India’s economy rate in this phase has been 5.56, higher than New Zealand’s 4.92 and Australia’s 5.04. In ODI matches at home, it rises to 5.76 in the middle overs, only better than England and South Africa.

While England have the batting prowess to make up for runs conceded by their bowlers, it cannot hold true for India or others at the moment. In terms of pace wicket-takers in middle-overs for India, Shardul Thakur leads the pack with 26 wickets, while Mohammed Siraj is a leader in terms of economy rate with 4.89.

Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna are injured, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been majorly missing from ODIs this year. Avesh Khan is doing the hard yards in domestic cricket, leaving Malik, Siraj, Thakur as the options for middle-overs enforcer. But with his extra pace troubling the batters (remember him hitting Shakib Al Hasan twice in his opening over) and much-improved accuracy, Malik can be the enforcer India needs in ODIs.

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