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Mohammed Shami vs Bhuvneshwar Kumar in ODIs

It’s a long running debate as to who should partner the impeccable Jasprit Bumrah with the new ball. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been the incumbent for a while with several others including Umesh Yadav, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Siraj and Siddharth Kaul tested in recent times. But in late 2018, less than a year away from the World Cup, India went back to Mohammad Shami who had last played in the format for them a year ago.

The move, so far, has been a roaring success. Shami, who has been a go-to man for Virat Kohli in Test cricket, has turned up and proved to be the perfect second-fiddle to a rampaging Bumrah. Since his comeback into the side, no pace bowler – not even Bumrah – has more wickets than Shami in the format for India. He has 30 wickets in 15 matches after a 4/16 against West Indies in the World Cup game on Thursday and it comes at a strike rate of 26.7, again the best for any Indian pacer.

Most wickets by Indian seamers since Shami’s comeback
Player Mat Wickets Avg Econ SR
Mohammed Shami 15 30 23.26 5.21 26.7
B Kumar 16 27 23.62 5.19 27.2
JJ Bumrah 13 22 23.22 4.37 31.8
HH Pandya 8 9 36.88 5.53 40
KK Ahmed 6 7 35 5.69 36.8
V Shankar 12 4 52.5 5.4 58.2
UT Yadav 2 1 142 7.1 120

Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s returns have come ahead of Bumrah but he has played more matches than either Shami or Bumrah. His strike rate is also not as compelling as Shami’s.

The two come under different categories of fast bowlers. While Bhuvneshwar is more of a new ball bowler with good yorkers in the death, Shami thrives on bowling the hard, short of a length deliveries that thud onto the bat hard. Of late, he has even added a slow bouncer and cutters to his repertoire and found success in the IPL whereas Bhuvneshwar has been struggling to nail his knuckle balls and yorkers.

In England, Shami has an impressive record in ODIs now. After a hat-trick against Afghanistan and a four-wicket haul against West Indies, Shami now has 16 wickets in 6 ODIs in England – an average of 13 which is the best in any country for him and an economy of 4.27.

SHAMI in ODIs in various countries
Host country Mat Wkts Ave Econ SR
Australia 12 18 25.22 4.83 31.2
Bangladesh 4 9 25.55 6.16 24.8
England 6 16 13 4.27 18.2
India 21 33 31.96 5.8 33
New Zealand 11 26 20.88 5.96 21
South Africa 3 9 20.55 6.6 18.6
West Indies 3 4 37.25 4.96 45
Zimbabwe 5 6 30.5 4.15 44

Shami has always been a wicket-taker while Bhuvneshwar, who started off his ODI career with a sharp inswinger to clean up Mohammed Hafeez off the first ball of his career, has gone downhill over the years in this format. His ability to nail the yorkers and bowl economically was one reason why India continued to persist with him as the second seamer in ODIs. But now that it has gone for a toss and Shami has showcased his abilities in all phases of the game, Bhuvneshwar has lost footing.

He is the fifth slowest Indian to 100 ODI wickets, taking 96 matches for the same. Check the list and you see that the top four are mostly part-timers who had an extended career rather than an out and out fast bowler like Bhuvneshwar.

Sourav Ganguly 308
Sachin Tendulkar 268
Yuvraj Singh 266
Ravi Shastri 100
Bhuvneshwar Kumar 96

This reveals where Bhuvneshwar has lacked in over the years – wicket-taking frequency.

Mohammad Shami 56
Irfan Pathan 59
Zaheer Khan 65
Ajit Agarkar 67
Javagal Srinath 68

Shami, on the other hand, has revelled at this. He is the fastest Indian to 100 ODI wickets, achieving the feat in 56 ODIs, and beating the likes of Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan to the landmark. After a strong showing in the matches against Afghanistan and West Indies, Shami has cemented his place in the playing eleven. Bhuvneshwar, who started off for India, has an injury concern which flared up during the Pakistan game, and is unavailable at least until the England game. But does he pip Shami when he does comeback? Given recent form and a lop-sided ODI record, Bhuvneshwar might just find it hard to beat Shami to the eleven, especially with the latter setting the World Cup on fire in the two matches he played.

Rohit Sankar is a freelance cricket journalist stuck in a love-hate live-in relationship with the game. To rile him up, mention the 1999 World Cup semi-final. Rohit has been writing about cricket for well over 10 years now, and has written for a variety of news and sports outlets over this time.

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