By Niharika Raina
New Delhi, Jun 2 (IANS): Former fast-bowler Jason Gillespie believes senior India pacer Mohammed Shami can ask good questions of the Australian battes' defensive techniques if he succeeds in finding some movement off the pitch during the upcoming World Test Championship (WTC) Final at The Oval from June 7-11.
With pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah absent, Shami will have an important role to play in leading India's charge with the ball in the WTC Final. Shami was the leading wicket-taker in IPL 2023 with 28 scalps, finding success by bowling majorly Test-match lengths.
Against Australia, Shami has picked 40 wickets from 11 Tests at an average of 31.27, with a career-best spell of 6-56. His record of playing Tests in England stands at 38 wickets in 13 games at an average of 40.52, with Shami yet to pick a five-wicket haul in the country.
"Shami impresses me a lot and I love how he keeps running in hard. He does a wonderful job for India. I love that he presents the seam, and releases the ball so well. His wrist and fingers are right behind the ball and you see the seam go all the way down the pitch and he gives the ball a chance to move off the seam. He can swing the ball in the right conditions and can get a little bit of swing," said Gillespie.
"But his seam presentation is as good as anyone in world cricket in my opinion. So I think he's going to play a big role in those conditions if there is any movement to be found off the pitch. Mohammed Shami can certainly exploit that and he can ask some really good questions of the Australian batters' defensive techniques, because he pitches the ball up and when he looks to just get a little bit of movement, then I think he's a fine bowler," said Gillespie in an interview with IANS.
Fellow-pacer Mohammad Siraj was Royal Challengers Bangalore's leading wicket-taker with 19 scalps and found rewards in sticking to an attacking line and length. Against Australia, Siraj has taken 14 wickets in six Tests and averages 32.64, while in England, he has scalped 18 wickets in five matches at an average of 33.
"Siraj is a fine young bowler as well, but he's a different type of bowler. He will look to run in and be quite aggressive and create opportunities for wickets. But he's a slightly different bowler to Shami. But both are fine bowlers and Siraj is going to have a long career ahead of him and for India. He can certainly be a 200-plus Test wicket-taker and he's good enough to do that," added Gillespie.
Bumrah's absence means India must pick either of Umesh Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat or Shardul Thakur as their third fast bowler or if conditions demand, take two out of the trio to form a four-man fast-bowling attack.
Gillespie, who previously coached Yorkshire and Sussex in County cricket, feels the Indian team has to make those decisions based on batting depth and who can contribute more in picking 20 wickets in the match.
"If they want some depth in their batting, they may well go with Thakur. I wouldn't be against that as I think he's a very good bowler. I've always liked Umesh Yadav. I just love how he runs in hard and hits the pitch hard. He's got a good bouncer and he bowls with really good airspeed. There's just a lot to like about him and so I wouldn't be against India playing him."
"It also depends on what the makeup of the middle order looks like. If they feel they need more batting, they may go with Thakur. But ultimately, they've got to make a decision with their bowling attack -- on what is the lineup that is most likely going to take 20 wickets. That will ultimately decide which way they go, whether they go to the bowling all-rounder or the out-and-out fast bowler."
With spin usually coming into play at The Oval, which will be hosting a Test match for the first time in June and England experiencing mainly sunny weather, Gillespie stated India can play Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja together in the playing eleven, which he sees as an advantage for Rohit Sharma & Co.
"That's the advantage India have -- they can have the wicket-keeper at six, with Jadeja and Ashwin at seven and eight and then pick their best three fast bowlers. That would be a very strong team, and there's no doubt about that because both Jadeja and Ashwin are very fine batters in their own right."
"So there's no reason why India couldn't go down that path. I would suggest they should pick their best three fast bowlers who they feel are going to make an impact and contribute to taking 20 wickets because Ashwin and Jadeja will contribute to taking those 20 wickets, but they'll also contribute really well with the bat."