Former Australia all-rounder Shane Watson feels pace bowler Mohammad Siraj could replace India spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, should he be ruled out of the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia commencing on October 16, though he added that no one in the world can replace the 28-year-old quick.
India head coach Rahul Dravid had said recently that the injured Bumrah is in the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and the team management is waiting for official confirmation on the next steps, adding that till the time the pacer is not officially ruled out of the T20 World Cup, they will always be hopeful. The 28-year-old Bumrah has been ruled out of the ongoing T20I series against South Africa with a back injury which has cast doubts over his participation in the T20 World Cup.
Bumrah missed the Asia Cup due to the same injury but made his return in the T20I series against Australia. Though he missed the first game, he was available for the final two matches which India won to clinch the series. Unfortunately, ahead of the first T20I against South Africa, BCCI provided an update that Bumrah complained of back pain during the practice session, thus ruling him out of the series.
Watson felt Siraj’s firepower was comparable with Bumrah’s, which would be “vital” on Australian wickets.
“The player I would put in if Jasprit’s not available is Mohammad Siraj, because of the firepower he presents,” Watson said on The ICC Review. “Without Bumrah, that’s the one thing India won’t necessarily have, which is vital on Australian wickets on the bigger grounds with the pace and bounce. Siraj is great with the brand new ball. He is fast, he swings the ball away but also his defensive skills are pretty good.”
Watson felt Siraj had learnt quite a few tricks of the trade playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
“And he’s got better over the last couple of years, with what we’ve seen in the IPL. So, for me he’s probably going to be the one who is going to have the most impact,” added Watson.
Experienced seamers Mohammad Shami and Deepak Chahar are among the players already on India’s standby list for the T20 World Cup, while Siraj is also in the mix to feature, given he received a call-up to replace Bumrah for the remainder of the South Africa T20 series.
Watson feels India’s chances of claiming a second T20 World Cup will be severely hampered should Bumrah not make the trip to Australia. Bumrah took more wickets than any other India quick at last year’s T20 World Cup in the UAE and it’s his versatility with the new ball and at the death that Watson thinks India will miss most.
“Honestly, I think it’s going to have a huge impact on India’s chances of winning the T20 World Cup,” Watson said. He is one of the best bowlers in the world and India in particular, with their fast bowlers, he is the main guy who can take wickets with the brand new ball but also is an incredible defensive bowler at the back end of the game. So if Jasprit’s not available to play in this T20 World Cup, then India’s chances drop quite a bit.
“India have got incredible firepower with the bat, all the way down as we’ve seen for a long time, but bowlers, the fast bowlers in particular, there’s always a bit of a question and Bumrah’s one of the best in the world. So, everyone’s got their fingers crossed that he will be OK, because for me, there’s no genuine replacement. There’s no replacement in the world for Jasprit.
“In terms of the quality of bowler, he is alone in Indian cricket. So it’s going to be a bit more of a battle,” added Watson.