Kolkata: When a South African team in transition take on India in the three-Test series starting Wednesday, they will be more relieved in the knowledge that Jasprit Bumrah will not pick up the red cherry and come at them than Virat Kohli picking up the bat and sending their bowlers on a leather hunt.
Arguably one of the best in the business, Bumrah has been ruled out of the series due to a minor stress fracture in his lower back. Needless to say, it was a body blow to the team management as they lost a player who in 12 Test matches has picked up 62 wickets, all on foreign soil including a hat-trick in the West Indies.
Speaking to IANS, sources in the team management have said that the Bangladesh series is not in the radar as skipper Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri want Bumrah to recover completely and return to action as India also have an eye on the 2020 World T20 in Australia next year.
Many have spoken about the 25-year-old's workload taking a toll on his body. But the overall picture which has come to the fore is how does the bowling unit, spearheaded by the ace fast bowler, perform without his services.
A young South African team, thin on batting experience after the retirement of Hashim Amla, might not test a strong Indian bowling battery but it surely will lack teeth against the likes of Faf du Plessis, Aiden Markram and Temba Bavuma over three five-day rubbers despite home conditions bringing into play spin factor more than pace.
Bumrah is yet to play at home and the injury has now delayed his debut as he is unlikely to take part in the Bangladesh series also. But going by his exploits in 12 Tests, odds were that the second-ranked bowler in red-ball cricket would definitely have had an impact in the outcome of the series, which now will rest on his support cast led by veteran Ishant Sharma, who is perhaps bowling like he has never bowled in his career.
Besides Ishant, a leaner and meaner Mohammed Shami will also look to shoulder more responsibility and take the load of spinners Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravidra Jadeja, based on whoever is playing.
Ishant has been around for a long time but could never really be the pace spearhead due to his inconsistent displays. In the absence of Bumrah, the 31-year old, who made his Test debut in 2007, would look to shine in that role and continue his rich vein of form.
It is also an opportunity for Bumrah's replacement Umesh Yadav to impress the selectors and team management and get back in the squad after falling down the pecking order due to a series of underwhelming performances.
The team management is targeting a West Indies series return for Bumrah. But since making his Test debut last year against the Proteas in Cape Town, Bumrah has become an integral part of the team at a rapid pace, so much so that the bowling arsenal revolves around him. Therefore, his absence is making the team, so formidable at home, look less venomous.