India will wrap up their fabulous 2017 campaign with the T20I series against Sri Lanka starting on Wednesday. Apart from the defeat against Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final, India have had great success in their bilateral series. Be it Test, ODI or T20I series, India have excelled in all formats.

However, one thing that India has shied away from during this period has been experimenting with young fast bowlers in series against less competitive opponents, like Sri Lanka. While they have been gutsy enough to pick young spinners like Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav ahead of the established duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin in the limited-overs formats. The selectors even handed Washington Sundar his debut ODI cap. But when it comes to their frontline fast bowlers, India have stayed in their comfort zone by playing Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.

The whole series against Sri Lanka at home, especially after whitewashing them in their own den back in August, was the ideal time to prepare young fast bowlers for the future by giving them some valuable game time. The selection of Siddharth Kaul in the ODI squad and the likes of Mohammed Siraj, Basil Thampi and Jaydev Unadkat in the T20I squad promised a lot.

However, the 27-year-old Kaul, who has an experience of 51 First-Class matches with a tally of 180 wickets, didn’t even get a game in the ODI series. Maybe he could have got a chance in the final ODI if India had wrapped up the series in the first two.

But, it was the surprising loss in the first ODI that put the Indian think tank and stand-in captain Rohit Sharma on the defensive mode. As a result, they decided to play safe and didn’t look beyond Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar in the fast bowling department, even though they tried the 18-year-old spinner Sundar in the second ODI.

The same should not happen with the likes of Unadkat, Thampi and Siraj. All of them deserve some game time and this is the ideal time to test their strengths ahead of the highly competitive overseas tours beginning next year.

India need to look beyond Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar for the limited-overs formats at least. They can get injured anytime and be forced to sit on the sidelines for long. So, it is necessary to grow and nurture young fast bowlers. Of course, Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami are always there to step up. But, it would be beneficial to have a wide pool of good fast bowlers to select from. The growth of players like Thampi, Siraj and Unadkat will widen the pool further if they get sufficient game time.

Of the three, only Siraj has represented India before. He got a game in the second T20I against New Zealand at Rajkot last month. However, he returned with expensive figures of 4-53-1. But, the wicket he got was a priced one, that too, of Kane Williamson.

Despite his expensive start, his domestic record suggests he is a much better bowler. He averages 21.63 with the ball in First-Class cricket, having taken a total of 57 wickets in 15 matches. And when it comes to domestic limited-overs matches, he has a tally of 20 and 27 wickets in 13 List-A and 17 T20s respectively, which gives an in idea about his massive wicket-taking ability as well.

So, the statistics show why India need to back him with some more game time.

Thampi, just 24-years old, is showing a lot of promise as well. A good IPL 2017 with the Gujarat Lions, in which he claimed 11 wickets in 12 matches, put him in the limelight. His First-Class record, a bowling average of 38.20 with a tally of 29 wickets in 17 games might not sound that impressive.

However, statistics of 15 and 37 wickets in 12 List-A and 35 T20 games at averages of 26.26 and 27.05 respectively suggests he is a much better limited-overs bowler. He is considered as a death bowling specialist with toe-crushing yorkers in his arsenal. Some experience with the Indian team would do him a world of good too.

Among these three bowlers, Unadkat is the most impressive, and not only does he deserve some game time, he should also be in India’s plans more often than not. The 26-year-old left-arm quick from Saurashtra has already played seven ODIs, one Test and one T20I for India.

However, things haven’t been easy for him despite a fabulous previous couple of seasons of First-Class cricket. He has a tally of 205 First-Class wickets in 65 matches at an average of 27.56, and a decent tally of 89 List-A wickets in 66 matches strengthens his case further.

The format in which Unadkat seems to have been most effective is the T20s. Statistics of 107 wickets in 82 matches at a superb average of 20.68, economy rate of 7.56, and a splendid strike rate of 16.4 underline his prowess in the format.

A breakout IPL season with the Rising Pune Supergiants in which he claimed 24 wickets in 12 matches at a scintillating average of 13.41 was exactly what made the world aware of his talent and potential in the format.

Besides, India also need a bit of variety in their pace attack. A good left-arm quick will add just that. India haven’t found a good regular left arm-quick since Zaheer Khan. Ashish Nehra has turned up with sporadic performances but India have always felt the void of someone who could be a regular. Unadkat is probably the one who can fill the void and add a new dimension to India’s pace attack.

Moreover, Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar have played a lot this year. While Bhuvneshwar has deservedly been rested in this series, Bumrah is going to spearhead this attack. The young quick bowlers should be given a chance to show their mettle alternatively in the three games.

India should not just stick with one among these three bowlers, who are all trying to make their mark, for the whole stretch of three T20Is. Instead, they should be rotated even if it means resting Bumrah in one of the matches. However, the Indian team management certainly has to be brave enough to experiment with them. They haven’t been so in recent times but it’s their best chance to carry out the experimentation against a team like Sri Lanka.

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