The Week in Cricket
With little cricket on the agenda over the past few weeks, the cricketing world has endured a relatively quiet period, but with cricket set to return to Pakistan for the first time in ten years and one of India's most talented players suffering an injury the team could ill-afford on the eve of a major series, things are starting to gear up again.
Jasprit Bumrah out indefinitely with stress fracture in back
Virat Kohli aside, Jasprit Bumrah is likely the player India could least afford to lose, so the recent news that he will miss an extended period with a stress fracture of the back is a major blow. He has been ruled out of the hightly anticipated upcoming Test series against South Africa, which is set to begin on the 2nd of October.
Courtesy of their significant home ground advantage, India heads into that series as favourites, but South Africa is the third ranked Test side in the world and only a point behind New Zealand for second, and are expected to give the home side a massive test. The loss of Bumrah is a big one in what shapes as a tight series, and though his replacement in Umesh Yadav has plenty of experience at the highest level and is a talented fast bowler, he is inconsistent and won't put the same fear into the South African batsmen as Bumrah would have.
At just 25 years of age, Bumrah has already proved himself to be one of the most talented bowlers in the world at all levels of the game. His unorthodox style has proven no barrier, and in the early years of his career he has managed to maintain a bowling average of under 22 in all three formats of the game. In Test cricket, though he has played just 12 matches, he has already claimed 62 wickets at an average of 19.24, and has proven his ability to build pressure with an extraordinarily tight economy rate of just 2.64.
Umesh Yadav, in contrast, has significantly more experience at the top level, having played 41 Test matches and 75 ODIs over the course of his career. The 31-year-old, however, despite consistently finding himself in the national side, has never been able to establish himself as a top bowler in the world. He averages 33.47 in Test match cricket, while in ODIs he averages 33.63 while conceding over six runs per over. This isn't to say that Umesh is a bad bowler - he has been an important part of the Indian side for a long time - but there is no doubt that he is a significant step down in quality from Bumrah.
Though Bumrah will miss the entire series, it's not all bad news, with his stress fracture being labelled as 'minor' by the Board of Cricket Control in India. However, given his age and the pressure which pace bowling puts on the bodies of bowlers, it's far from ideal. Plenty of fast bowlers of years gone by have suffered from similar ailments, and though many have continued on to have brilliant careers it's not typically an injury which is particularly straightforward to recover from.
In recent years, Australia's group of talented young pace bowlers have been unable to avoid the issue, with all of Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson suffering from back problems. Cummins spent five years away from Test cricket in a large part due to back problems, while the promising career of Pattinson was also halted due to similar issues. Of course, Cummins has returned to become one of the best bowlers in the world while Pattinson is on the way back, and Hazlewood has been a consistent member of a talented Australian bowling attack for a number of years, so there is nothing to suggest Bumrah won't be able to return to his best. Likewise, the extended absences of Cummins and Pattinson does not mean that India's precocious young talent will spend a similar length of time on the sidelines - with Bumrah's stress fracture labelled as minor there is every chance he returns relatively quickly, but the continued issues faced by these Australian bowlers does highlight the need to exercise caution when he does return.
The lead-up to Karachi's first ODI in over ten years
It was January of 2009 when Karachi last played host to an international 50-over match, but that streak will end today, Friday the 27th of September, when Pakistan hosts Sri Lanka there. Pakistan is well-placed to make it a successful return, with a number of factors swinging the game heavily in their favour.
Pakistan has won its last six ODI's against Sri Lanka, a streak which extends back to 2017. Most of those wins came in that year when Pakistan 'hosted' Sri Lanka in the United Arab Emirates for a five-match ODI series, which they swept. And none of the matches were close. In the first two matches of the series, the home side batted first and won by first 83 runs and then 32 runs - the latter being the closest game of the series - while in the final three matches they chased down Sri Lanka's first innings totals with seven, seven and nine wickets in hand, and plenty of balls to spare in all three games.
Pakistan also outperformed Sri Lanka at the recent ODI World Cup - though the scheduled match between the two teams was abandoned due to bad weather - and though they are ranked sixth in the world in the 50-over format of the game, they are comfortably ahead of a Sri Lankan team which is languishing in eighth.
Even at full strength Pakistan would be in the box seat to claim their first home victory since last decade, but the team which Sri Lanka fields will be far from their best XI, meaning the home side will be a comfortable favourite heading into the game. Ten Sri Lankan players opted out of the tour due to security concerns, a large number of them best XI players, meaning the team the visitors put out there will be closer to a Sri Lankan Second XI.
Despite the seeming disparity in team quality, however, you can still find relatively decent odds on Pakistan to win the game, with betting agencies still giving a depleted Sri Lankan side an outside chance at victory. Regardless of the result, it will be an historic day in Karachi, and though there has been some inclement weather in the lead-up the match there will no doubt plenty of parochial Pakistan fans filling the stadium.
Australia on the hunt for a new national selector after Greg Chappell retires
On Thursday this week it was announced that national talent manager Greg Chappell will conclude his tenure with the team at the end of this month. Chappell has been a selector for nine years, but his association with the team, as most will know, stretches back far longer.
Chappell represented the Australian Test side between the years of 1970 and 1984, playing 84 Tests and becoming one of the country's most celebrated batsmen. He averaged 53.86 in the Test arena and scored over 7000 runs, and when the 50-over format entered the fold partway through his career he picked it up with aplomb, ultimately playing 74 matches and averaging 40.18 in that form of the game. Renowned for an elegance and grace in his batting that was, and still is, virtually unparallelled, Chappell was a favourite of many throughout the 70s and 80s.
Since retirement, Chappell has provided commentary on three separate occasions, and was also coach of the Indian national side from 2005 to 2007. Soon after that tenure ended he rejoined his native team as a selector, where he remained for close to a decade. Throughout his involvement in cricket he has also raised over $400,000 AUD for homeless youth in Australia through his charity.
Currently, he forms one part of a three man selection panel which also includes chairman Trevor Hohns and national coach Justin Langer. Australia is expected to have a specific focus on the shorter formats of the game in their search for a new selector, with a number of T20I's set to kick-start the summer of cricket and the country due to host the T20 World Cup next year.
Chief Executive of Cricket Australia, Kevin Roberts, highlighted the continually growing influence of T20 cricket around the world, and the need to choose a new selector reflective of this fact. 'One of the things we'd like to have more of in the future,' he said, 'is more experience in T20 games. Rather than targeting an individual person, it's really about determining what are the characteristics or capabilities we need among the panel and who are the people in Australian cricket who can fulfil those.'
With only a few days left until Chappell's retirement, presumably Cricket Australia already have a name, or numerous names, on the agenda, and an announcement regarding this will likely come soon.