Bumrah, Siraj, Shami together in India's Playing XI could be a recipe for disaster
It is tempting to start Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah in the same starting eleven, but there are drawbacks as well.
In a time when many limited-overs cricket players can do more than one thing well, it's interesting that India's 50-over team is mostly made up of specialists—batsmen who don't bowl very often and spinners who can't really help with more than a few runs in a pinch.
India had a lot of all-around ability during its two successful World Cup runs, in 1983 and 2011. There was only one real all-rounder, and that was Kapil Dev. The others were all very good at one thing and very good at something else.
Kapil was in the Class of 1983, along with Mohinder Amarnath, Roger Binny, Madan Lal, Kirti Azad, and Ravi Shastri.
The team of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, and Zaheer Khan in 2011 may have been even more all-around. And, of course, Yuvraj Singh, who won Player of the Tournament.
Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja are two real all-rounders for India in the World Cup 15 in 2023. Axar Patel and Shardul Thakur are two others who are mostly bowlers but can also hit. The fact that the first is a left-arm spinner and the second is a fast-medium bowler helps. Depending on the weather and the team they are playing, India can add more spin or speed.
To make the batting last longer and allow the top order to have a bad day every once in a while, captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid like to put Axar or Thakur at No. 8 in the batting order.
Because they wanted to have another hitting option lower down, R Ashwin wasn't even considered in the first place. He was a good batter in Tests, but he didn't have the power game that was needed for someone that low in the order.
Indian fans have been arguing for a long time about whether they should pick a "all-rounder" at No. 8. In particular, whether Thakur should play that role if India brings in a fourth pacer to help Pandya and the pair with the new ball.
India's problem with speed
In no particular order, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, and Mohammed Shami are India's three best quick bowlers. This is a pace charge that is better than most and as good as any in the race. They are skilled, have a lot of knowledge, and can take wickets at any point in the innings.
In 77 ODIs, Bumrah has taken 126 wickets, kept 4.61 runs, and hit 31.5 runs. Shami has taken 171 wickets in 94 games (5.57 average, 27.4), while Siraj has taken 53 wickets in 29 games (4.76 average, 24.0). However, they don't play together very often because of the belief that a good hitter is needed at No. 8.
If you don't mean any harm, Thakur isn't a better bowler than these three. In 44 ODIs, he has taken 63 wickets, which is a good number, but his economy is a bad 6.24. His record as a batter is fine: 329 runs, 17.31 average, and 105.11 strike rate. But if India's top order does its job, Thakur the hitter won't have to do much.
Thakur has a happy knack for getting wickets—every 29.1 deliveries, to be exact—but it can't be ignored how often he lets runs slip and relieves the pressure that the new ball pair puts on the team.
He might have to bring something to the table as a batter every fifth or sixth game, because anything more than that would be a bad sign for Gills, Rohits, Kohlis, Rahuls, Iyers, and Pandyas.
Should India keep hedging their bets by going with Thakur when they need a fourth paceman, or should they bring out their three best players along with Pandya, who has become a great quick bowler and no longer depends on the short ball to do damage? If Bumrah, Shami, and Siraj play as well as they can, there will be no need for an extra hitter.
Not long ago, India has played with only five bowlers, so it wouldn't have been a bad idea to let Bumrah, Shami, and Siraj go in Wednesday's "dead rubber" ODI against Australia. However, that is no longer possible because some players, including Shami, aren't available.
Because of the length of the World Cup and all the travel, Bumrah, Shimi, and Siraj won't be able to play together in every game, but India should not completely rule out the idea of having all three of them in the same XI. It will be exciting to watch, but more importantly, it will help the team's case.