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Umesh Yadav should be picked ahead of Khaleel Ahmed

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Khaleel_Ahmed_Umesh_Yadav_India_CricketTeam India could not have asked for a better start to 2019 - winning back to back ODI series in Australia and New Zealand. They made a spectacular comeback against the Aussies and won the 3-match series 2-1 after losing the first ODI. They had it a lot easier against the Black Caps as they dominated and won 4-1. Apart from the horrific performance in the 4th ODI, Team India did not give the Black Caps a chance in the remaining four matches. It was a great team effort in both series as the entire unit clicked. This made it less surprising when Australia beat India in India, with the Indian side undergoing many experiments, in the middle order and the bowling ranks.

Down under, the bowling unit was superb as usual. The pace trio of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah (who did not play all the matches), as well as the spin twins Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, were on song throughout the series. They picked up wickets at regular intervals and choked the run-rate of the opposition well.

If there was a chink in armour in India's bowling department, it was the youngster Khaleel Ahmed. He was impressive in the Asia Cup last year and in the following ODI series against the Windies, picking up plenty of wickets, swinging the ball, and not giving away too many runs.

However, he failed to make an impact against Australia or New Zealand in the ODIs away from home. He did pick up 3 wickets against Australia in the 3 T20Is he played but leaked a lot of runs in the process. While he conceded 42 runs in the first T20I, he was marginally better in the next two, conceding 39 runs and 35 runs respectively.

He got one chance against Australia and New Zealand each in the ODIs and failed to pick up a single wicket. Granted, he wasn't allowed to bowl his full quota of overs against the Kiwis, but he was less than impressive in the few overs that he did bowl.

While he leaked a lot of runs, Umesh Yadav, who was dropped for the ODI series, was picking up wickets aplenty in the Ranji Trophy back at home. He steamrolled Kerala's batting line-up in the semi-final of the tournament, picking up as many as 12 wickets to take his side to the final of the tournament. Prior to that, he picked up 9 wickets in the quarterfinal against Uttarakhand. He was impressive in the final as well and helped lead his side to their 2nd consecutive Ranji Trophy victory.

While critics might argue that he achieved all this in the longer format of the game, they must also admire his fighting spirit and his tenacity, to come back strong after constantly being in and out of the Indian side.

The selectors have also taken note of his performances in the domestic tournament and will ensure that they do not go unnoticed.

 

"Umesh has been so good in Ranji Trophy and has been part of the Indian set up for a while now. I don't see any reason to drop him from the World Cup squad," said Dilip Vengsarkar in an interview.

 

Now that the team management will have to make the tough decision about who to pick, experience will be taken into consideration - something which Umesh has a lot more of than Khaleel.

Umesh made his ODI debut way back in 2010 and has played 75 ODIs for the Men in Blue so far. In these 75 ODIs, he has picked up 106 wickets at a decent average of 33. The only problem with his bowling has been his economy rate, which is just above 6. However, over the past few years, he has been putting in the hard yards and improving match by match.

If we look at the Indian Premier League last year, Umesh was one of the shining stars in RCB's poor campaign. He was their best bowler by far and probably one of the best bowlers in the tournament as he picked up 20 wickets in 14 matches.

He got the ball to swing in the Powerplay overs and troubled the batsmen with his impeccable line and length. Given that the pitches in England seem to favour swing bowling, Umesh could be extremely useful in the first 10-15 overs. We have seen how much success bowlers like James Anderson, Stuart Broad, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, to name a few, have achieved in England due to their ability to swing the ball. Similarly, Umesh too should be able to extract a lot from the pitch as well.

On the other hand, Khaleel is quite inexperienced and has played just 8 matches for India so far, with just 2 of them coming against relatively big opponents. If one or two of India's main pacers got injured, it would be too much of a responsibility on Khaleel’s young shoulders. Umesh would be able to handle such a situation a lot better, given the fact that he has World Cup experience behind him.

He had a great outing in 2015, where India reached the semi-finals. The Vidarbha pacer was on fire throughout the tournament, picking up 18 wickets in 8 matches at an average of 17 and an economy rate of 5.35.

All things considered, if the selectors have to make a choice between Khaleel Ahmed and Umesh Yadav, they should go with the latter. His Ranji Trophy performances this year might have just given him a lifeline with the national side.



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