India vs New Zealand ODI series: ‘Siraj very important, not only for the World Cup but also beyond’: bowling coach Paras Mhambrey

On the eve of the second ODI against New Zealand, India bowling coach Paras Mhambrey sang praises of Mohammed Siraj, stressing his importance not just for the 50-over World Cup later this year, but also beyond it.

“He’s a very important member of the team, we expect a lot from him. Not only for the World Cup, but also beyond it for India,” stated Mhambrey in the pre-game press conference at Raipur’s Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium on Friday.

On Wednesday, in his first game for India at his home ground in Hyderabad, Siraj starred with figures of 4/46 as India survived a scare from the Kiwis. It took Siraj’s ODI tally to 37 scalps in 20 innings, averaging just over 21.

“Extremely happy with the way he’s performed. I’ve seen him from the India A set-up, when he was first part of it. And he did exceedingly well with the red ball. It’s very heartening and very good to see that he has transformed that skill and experience into white-ball cricket.”

When asked where the Hyderabad bowler has improved, Mhambrey added, “Siraj has been known, maybe among the technical lot, as an ‘in’ kind of bowler, who likes to get the ball in. But something that he’s really worked on has been the wobbling seam position, his action to actually get the ball going away. That has really made a difference and added a wicket-taking option to his bowling.”

Between Umran and Shardul

Mhambrey said that it was ‘heartening’ to see the progress of India’s pace sensation Umran Malik.

“Very rarely do you come across someone who bowls 150-plus (kph) consistently. Pace does matter. And I think that really adds a different dimension to the bowling attack as well.”

While the 50-year-old said that Malik was ‘very much in the scheme of things as far as the World Cup is concerned’, he also conceded that opting for a bowling all-rounder in Shardul Thakur alongside two frontline pacers was a good template. “Shardul adds a lot of depth to the batting, that helps,” Mhambrey said.

Malik, who played two of the three ODIs against Sri Lanka earlier this month, didn’t feature in Hyderabad. Thakur, who returned to the India squad after a stint with the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team, picked a couple of wickets in the first game, including the all-important one of centurion Michael Bracewell in the final over.

Bumrah irreplaceable

India is currently without the services of pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, and the attack does look different in his absence.

“A bowler like Bumrah is unique, irreplaceable. Let’s accept the fact that the skills he brings to the team, the performances he has put in, will be tough to replicate,” Mhambrey admitted.

“On the other hand, it also gives an opportunity to the other players to be tested in international cricket. We get to test players on the basis of what they bring to the team, how they’ve handled pressure, how they’ve done at different stages of the game.”

On the shuffling of line-ups in bilateral series, the India bowling coach hinted that it was only a matter of time before the shortlisted players in contention for World Cup slots are identified.

“We are not looking at any experimentation. It won’t be like we make too many changes,” Mhambrey said. “But there’s another series (vs Australia). We’ll have to look at the other players in the set-up. Then there’s the IPL, then maybe another series before the World Cup. By the time the next series ends, more or less there’ll be clarity on the 15 players.”

11:30 am starts to World Cup matches ‘a very valid point’

Beyond the usual team configuration equations, Mhambrey also had his say on Ravichandran Ashwin’s suggestion to start World Cup games as early as 11:30 am to nullify the dew factor.

“Ashwin had raised a pretty valid point. Dew does play a very important part at some venues,” he said.

“Depends on what time of the year you are playing, where you are playing. At times, you realise that when the ball does get old, it really tilts on to the batting side, because spin is not there. The ball comes onto the bat. It makes batting definitely easy. That’s something we can look into. It’s not my call to take. That’s the ICC or the board to take forward with other members attached. Both the teams play on a level field.”

In the aftermath of Sri Lanka being bowled out for 73 against India in the third ODI, Ashwin had said on his YouTube channel: “My suggestion – or rather my opinion – for the World Cup is to look at what venues we are playing in, and at what times. Why shouldn’t we start matches at 11.30 am during the World Cup?”

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