We talk about batting partnerships and their importance in each of the three formats. There are bowling partnerships spoken about in Test cricket as well — Shane Warne – Glenn McGrath, Wasim Akram – Waqar Younis, Anil Kumble – Harbhajan Singh — all forged memorable bowling partnerships in Tests. Why then is the term used less in T20 cricket?
Yes, it’s true that there are hardly any long spells in the shortest format. There are multiple times when a bowler bowls just one over per spell. However, that plays a vital role as well. Not only bowling in tandem but bowling one over after the other and cashing in on the pressure built. Bowling partnerships in T20 cricket is very underrated.
For India, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have done it successfully over the last few years in white-ball cricket. They may not play together a lot these days with India looking at different combinations and also, Hardik Pandya’s absence affecting the team balance. But they had a significant impact when playing together.
The two wrist-spinners were one of the reasons why India did well in the format since the Champions trophy in 2017. KulCha (as they are famously called together) picked wickets in the middle overs and that’s what made them lethal. They didn’t mind going for a few runs and even concede a couple of sixes as far as they picked wickets. Both Kuldeep and Chahal had the backing as well and they have admitted that they constantly communicate on the field which has helped.
In the third T20I between India and Sri Lanka, just like KulCha, Lakshan Sandakan and Wanindu Hasaranga tied down the Indian batsmen in the middle overs. Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul were flying high as they got India off to a flier and scored 72 runs in seven overs. But the Sandakan-Hasaranga duo managed to pull things back really well. They not only applied the brakes but also picked up four wickets between them.
There was another pair that looked threatening in the series. Jasprit Bumrah and Navdeep Saini were playing together for the first time ever. But they seem to form a potent pair. Think about it. Both of them are fast. Both bowlers have lethal yorkers and can bowl them at express pace. The bouncer is more of a surprise weapon for Bumrah while Saini uses it more often but they have nippy and sharp bouncers as well. On the other hand, Bumrah uses the slower ball a lot more and a lot better than Saini but the latter is realising the importance and has started using it a lot more frequently than before.
In the two games they’ve played together, the duo has shown a lot of promise. Bumrah is the more experienced one while the Delhi pacer is raw and learning fast. He’s already shown signs of improving from the last time he was in the side.
In fact, this could turn out to be like the Bumrah-Malinga pair. While the duo played together at Mumbai Indians (MI), Malinga passed on the experience and helped Bumrah prepare and get better with his mindset. They bowled well in together as well. The same could be the case with the Bumrah-Saini pair. While Bumrah may not be as experienced as Malinga was, he definitely has the skillset and uses it brilliantly. Saini could well pick his brains and they could develop into a lethal pair.
The way Saini bowled in this series was excellent. Be it with the yorkers, slower balls or the bouncers, he was spot on with every variation he tried. He picked up five wickets while Bumrah ended with only two. But it was also due to the pressure built from Bumrah’s end at the start that allowed Saini to get into his groove and then wreak havoc. It happened in both games. Bumrah started off but Saini followed him up and later took wickets.
The pace and consistency has been the key factor. Saini is still a little raw and needs to play a lot more before the mega-event. It isn’t even sure if he’ll make it to the squad, given India’s fast bowling pool. But if they continue in this mode, especially Saini, then the Bumrah-Saini duo might be too hot to handle going forward. With the pitches in Australia offering some good bounce and even the bigger grounds playing into their hands, this pair could well be the X-factor for India in the T20 World Cup.