What’s the story?
If reports are to be believed, then the race for the fourth genuine seamer slot in India’s Champions Trophy squad for the 2017 edition is between left-armer Ashish Nehra and right-armer Mohammed Shami.
If top board officials are to be believed, then skipper Virat Kohli is in favour of taking the former along for the event as he feels he would provide the side with a great deal of experience and help the young bowlers in the line-up.
For the moment, it does look as if Bhuvneshvar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah will be the three confirmed pacers in the squad, with Hardik Pandya joining the trio as the seam bowling all-rounder.
The question now is: who between Nehra and Shami will the three-man selection panel pick for the event, starting in June?
In case you didn't know...
Nehra last played an ODI for India in the 2011 World Cup, when in the semifinal against Pakistan, he bowled an economical spell to help the Men In Blue enter the final. Post that, injuries and infusion of fresh blood meant he did not get his chance and after an almost five-year gap he was picked for the T20I leg of the tour to Australia.
Shami, on the other hand, has been really unfortunate with regards to injuries that have plagued him severely during his career. The Bengal pacer was one of India’s best bowlers during the 2015 World Cup, but post that has failed to seal a regular berth in the Indian squads, owing to fitness worries.
The heart of the matter
The 37-year-old Nehra had said in the past that he was eyeing this event as a chance to make his comeback in the 50-over format of the game for India. He felt that he could be employed at the start of an innings, in the middle overs as well as the end of an innings and could also share his knowledge with the other youngsters in the team.
Shami, though, has been in excellent whenever he has remained fit, but his ability to play constantly has remained a question mark. His last match for India in any format came in November and the selectors will keep that in mind when they sit down to picking the squad.
Both the players as well as the rest of the group would be hoping to have a good second month of the IPL and gather some form. The likes of Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and others have not done anything of note yet in the IPL will look to get some runs under their belt and gain some confidence before the event.
If Nehra is picked in the Champions Trophy squad, then it would surely be a backward step. At 37, he is not at the start of his career and while he may have done well for India in the T20Is, it does not mean that he will be as useful a customer in ODIs as in T20Is.