When was the last time India used nine bowling options? Well it was their first ever in World Cup history. Making the most of their inconsequential league game against Netherlands on Sunday at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, India did a bit of a bowling experiment as they tested their part-time options which included Virat Kohli and captain Rohit Sharma himself. The skipper later revealed that it was all according to their pre-match plan of testing their options for a sixth bowler as India gear up for the semifinal against New Zealand in Mumbai on November 15.
Hardik Pandya’s injury affected India’s balance. With the fast-bowling all-rounded getting ruled out of the tournament with an ankle injury, most felt India would be exposed now and fall vulnerable in their subsequent league games. With no like-for-like replacement for Hardik, India fell to Plan B which was executed to perfection. Suryakumar Yadav was brought in as a specialist batting option at No. 6 while Shardul Thakur was replaced by Mohammed Shami as a specialist pace option and India continued their dominating run in the tournament, thus shutting the talk around a sixth-bowling option. However, on Sunday, after India set a mighty target of 411 against Netherlands, they turned towards some of their lesser-used bowlers to check their depth.
Virat Kohli, the “wrong-footed inswinging menace”, for the first time ever in six years, bowled a full over in an ODI match and picked up a wicket as well, of Netherlands captain Scott Edwards, in his three-over spell of 1 for 13. Shubman Gill was later called in as he conceded 11 runs in two overs with his off-spin variety. And that was followed by Suryakumar Yadav, who has 36 wickets in domestic cricket. The right-arm off break bowler rolled his arms for the first time ever in international cricket, conceding 17 runs in two overs. Eventually, it was Rohit himself who wrapped up the match with his first ODI wicket in 11 years.
After the big win, the captain confirmed their game plan, saying it was all part of an experiment.
“Today we had nine (bowling) options, it’s important, this was the game where we could have tried certain things. The seamers bowling those wide yorkers when it was not needed, but we wanted to do that. As a bowling unit, we wanted to try doing something different and see what we can achieve,” he said in the post-match presentation.
India have a two days of rest before they meet New Zealand in the first semifinal in Mumbai on Wednesday.