India have named Avesh Khan and Venkatesh Iyer as additional net bowlers for the T20 World Cup in Oman and UAE, starting October 17. The two cricketers have been told to stay put in UAE post the end of the IPL 2021 and join the Indian team on net duties, reported ESPNcricinfo.
These two are now India’s second and third designated net bowlers after Jammu & Kashmir uncapped speedster Umran Malik was also roped in for the important off-field contribution.
India already have Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur among their three official standby players. However, the selector have opted to pick extra pace options around the group to cover for the possibility of an injury to any of their three selected quicks Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami.
The names of Malik and Iyer have taken a few by surprise among the net bowling options, especially the latter, as he is predominantly a left-hand opening batter who can bowl a few tight overs of medium fast-bowling at best.
Iyer, the Madhya Pradesh cricketer, has been the find of the UAE leg of IPL 2021 through his batting exploits, scoring 265 runs from his 8 innings at a strike-rate of 123.25. And though he has taken 3 wickets with an economy rate of 8.53 from his 7.3 overs, it is no mystery that he is a specialist batter.
Speculations are that the inclusion of Iyer could be down to uncertainty around Hardik Pandya’s bowling fitness. While Hardik the powerhitter is unlikely to be dropped by the October 15 deadline even if he is unable to bowl, his true value is served when he is also rolling his arm over at full tilt.
Since returning to cricket post back surgery last September, Hardik has gone two full seasons of IPL without a single ball and has bowled just 46 overs across 11 white-ball matches in international cricket.
Malik’s ascent into the list of India’s net bowlers has been quite rapid to say the least. The J & K bowler made his IPL debut for Sunrisers Hyderabad recently and impressed one and all with his express pace and decent control.
In his first outing for SRH, he clocked the 150 kmph – the fastest ball of the season by an Indian – and ended the tournament with two wickets from 3 games at an economy rate of 8.00. Malik had played only two domestic T20s for J & K before getting his IPL debut as a short-term Covid-19 replacement for T Natarajan but is now all set to bowl to the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul.
Among the net bowling trio, only Avesh’s selection was expected. The tall pacer has been on the fringes of the Indian team for a while now. Avesh was part of India’s England touring contingent earlier this year but was ruled out of the tour due to an untimely thumb injury.
He has been one of the most impressive performers of the UAE leg of IPL 2021, taking 23 wickets from his 15 matches so far with an economy rate of 7.50.
Kohli and company will reassemble for the T20 World Cup just prior to their first warm-up game on October 18 against England, followed by the second one on October 20 versus Australia. Both the warm-up games will be played in the ICC Academy Ground in Dubai.
India open up their T20 World Cup campaign with the first of five Super 12 matches against arch-rivals Pakistan on October 24 at the Dubai International Stadium.