India have been dealt with a big blow ahead of the series against Sri Lanka at home. Their in-form and strike bowler Mohammed Shami has been ruled out of the series. However, one person's pain can often turn out to be another person's gain. And, in a similar vein, Dhawal Kulkarni has been chosen as a replacement for Shami. India need at least three strike bowlers for Australia, and while Shami will definitely be one of them, Bhuvneshwar Kumar cannot be expected to pick up many wickets in the World Cup. Unlike England, there wouldn't be so much lateral movement in Australia.
Among the other choices that India have in the pace bowling department include Mohit Sharma. But, the medium pacer seems too raw to be chosen for such a huge tournament. Also, in the few games that he has played, he has displayed a tendency to be rather expensive. There have been talks of brining back Ashish Nehra. Depending on the erratic left-armer however could be a huge risk in spite of his experience. Nehra hasn't even done much in domestic cricket to earn a recall. As for Irfan Pathan, he just hasn't shown the fitness required for him to be eligible for selection.
Under the current circumstances, the selection of Kulkarni for the Sri Lanka series is extremely critical. This is not the first time that the Mumbai pacer has been recalled. But, considering the lack of options in the pace department, it is important that they have a proper back up for the World Cup. The case of Kulkarni has been a curious one. He was selected for the 2009 tour of New Zealand on the basis of a superb Ranji debut season. So far though he has only featured in one ODI. It is imperative that Kulkarni is given a fair chance to prove his merit against Sr Lanka.
As for Shami, the man whom Kulkarni has replaced, he has been having serious fitness issues. This is not the first time that he has been ruled out with injury in recent times. He has been India's number one strike bowler in one-dayers over the last few months. Thus, India would want him to be in the pink of health when they head to Australia. However, considering the number of times that he has broken down recently, the signs are not very encouraging. The affinity of Shami to get injured so frequently is another reason why India must have a replacement ready.
Pace bowling will be extremely important if India want to retain the World Cup they won four years back at home. For that, they need bowlers who can exploit the conditions. As of now, only Shami seems to have the requisites to do well, which is why his presence in the eleven is so important. With his height Ishant Sharma can also trouble the batsmen. But, his consistency is a big question mark. India cannot depend on him completely in spite of his experience. Under the circumstances, India will do well to figure out what Kulkarni has to offer against Lanka.
--By A Cricket Analyst