Indore: India must manage the workload of their fast bowlers during their jam-packed home season, captain Virat Kohli said Friday, after being deprived of two of his key pace-men for the third Test against New Zealand.
The veteran Ishant Sharma and in-form Bhuvneshwar Kumar have both been ruled out of the final Test beginning in Indore on Saturday, undermining India`s chances of a clean sweep against the Black Caps and raising fresh questions about the team`s strength in depth on the pace front.
Sharma has missed the whole series after contracting the mosquito-borne disease chikungunya while Kumar was injured during the second Test in Kolkata after bagging his second five-wicket haul in the last three matches.
Kumar`s replacement is Shardul Thakur, who is yet to make his international debut, and it means Mohammed Shami will shoulder a heavier burden even though he is on the comeback trail after being plagued with knee problems.
"It`s very important to manage workload, especially for your fast bowlers," Kohli told reporters in Indore on the eve of the match.
"For the one-day matches, they`ve been given rest because it`s a long Test season and we need the bowlers fresh," he said, referring to the selectors` decision to omit Sharma and Kumar from the squad for three ODIs which follow the Tests.
The series against the Black Caps marks the start of a packed programme of international cricket for India who are also due to host Test matches against England, Bangladesh and Australia later this season.
Kohli was full of praise for Shami who made his Test comeback in July against the West Indies after being sidelined for 18 months.
"Shami is someone who has come back very well, he`s worked very hard on his fitness as well. You can see he`s able to bowl those five-six over spells now," he said.
"As captain I feel that he`s a very important bowler for us in this full season and in future, as well. Looking at the near future, his fitness and rhythm is very, very important."
Shami, 26, has taken 66 wickets from 18 Tests at a strike rate of 54.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, who missed the second Test with a viral illness, was hopeful of making it to the playing XI Saturday and help his side avoid being whitewashed.
Williamson conceded India`s fast bowlers had outperformed his pace attack, making better use of the conditions and pitch.
"In the last game the seam bowlers made a bigger impact. We did not know coming here that reverse swing would be quite effective. They exploited reverse swing better than us," the right-hander said.
"In this part of the world they exploit the conditions better than anyone. We certainly hope we can turn it around in this game."