India’s ongoing struggles against left-arm pacers persisted in their high-stakes encounter against Pakistan during the 2023 Asia Cup in Kandy. Once again, Team India’s batsmen found themselves grappling with the formidable left-arm pace of Shaheen Shah Afridi, who claimed four crucial wickets. In the initial phase of the game, Shaheen Afridi snared the prized scalps of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Later in the match, during the final spell, he added the dismissals of Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja to his tally, effectively thwarting Team India’s efforts to set a substantial total in this pivotal league match of the Asia Cup.
This narrative of India’s vulnerability against left-arm pacers has persisted over the years, dating back to their struggles against the likes of Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 semifinals, Mohammed Amir in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 final, Trent Boult in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 semifinals, and Shaheen Afridi in a T20 World Cup 2021 group stage match. In these encounters, Indian batsmen have frequently succumbed to these bowlers, especially during the powerplay phase of the innings, often surrendering their wickets without much resistance.
This familiar pattern played out once again during the Asia Cup clash, as Pakistan’s left-arm pacers inflicted early blows on India’s batting lineup.
The first casualty was skipper Rohit Sharma, who was comprehensively bowled as he attempted to counter a rapid delivery aimed at the stumps. Rohit departed after contributing just 11 runs, leaving India at 15/1 after five overs.
Next to follow was Virat Kohli, who had initially shown promise with his trademark cover drive but ultimately fell victim to an inside edge that dislodged the stumps, courtesy of Shaheen Afridi’s relentless pace. Virat’s innings was cut short, and India found themselves at 27/2 in 6.3 overs.
Shreyas Iyer was the next to fall. Making a comeback from an injury, he began his innings with two impressive boundaries but succumbed to a short delivery that turned into his downfall, with Haris Rauf claiming his wicket and Fakhar Zaman making a solid catch at deep mid-wicket. At this point, India was in a precarious position at 48 for 3 in 9.5 overs.
The struggles of Rohit and Kohli against left-arm pacers with the new ball have been a recurring issue since 2021. Kohli has been dismissed four times by left-arm pacers during this period, amassing only 87 runs in 98 balls at an average of 21.75 and a strike rate of 88.77. Similarly, skipper Rohit has fallen to left-arm pacers on six occasions since 2021, scoring 138 runs against them in 147 balls at an average of 23, with a strike rate of 93.87.
Notably, four of these dismissals have occurred within the first five overs, underscoring India’s persistent challenges in handling the moving ball, particularly when faced with left-arm pacers. These statistics highlight that India’s concerns in this regard have not entirely dissipated and tend to resurface during crucial matches.