Harshal and Bumrah have both missed close to two months of top-flight cricket to nurse injuries that have required rehabilitation. Harshal is returning from a rib injury, while Bumrah has had to overcome a lower back problem.
On Sunday, Bumrah’s introduction at all stages was met with a fierce counterattack from Australia. While Cameron Green took him apart in the powerplay, Tim David, his team-mate at Mumbai Indians, launched into him in the final overs. Bumrah’s figures read 4-0-50-0, his most expensive in T20Is.
Harshal, meanwhile, went for 49 in four wicketless overs in the series opener, bowled two overs that went for 32 in an eight-overs shootout, and then bowled just two overs in the final T20I. Barring the final over of Australia’s innings, where he got his execution spot on to concede just seven runs and get a wicket. Overall, he finished the series with an economy of 12.37.
Amid talks of loss in confidence, Rohit has firmly backed Harshal to rediscover his old form that made him the MVP for Royal Challengers Bangalore for the past two IPLs. Rohit made it clear one bad series won’t leave them second-guessing, and that as a team management, they were firmly confident of Harshal returning to top form.
“Coming back from an injury is never easy,” Rohit said. “He missed cricket for close to two months. Whenever bowlers go through an injury phase and come back, it’s never easy, so we’ve not really judged him on how he has performed in these three games because we know his quality.
“He has bowled some tough overs for us in the past, and also for his franchise. We believe in his quality, whatever he has as a bowler. It’s important to keep showing that faith and I’m pretty sure he’s also trying to rectify those mistakes. He’s working hard on his bowling.
“As I see, in the nets, whenever we do have our training sessions, he’s always working on his skills which is what you want. You want players to go out and keep improving. We talk about it all the time; we can see that happening. So, I’m pretty sure he’s not far from his best.”
“It’s important we give him that space,” Rohit said. “Because when you gave a guy like him in the team and the quality that he brings, we know that he’s had more good days than bad days honestly speaking, in the last so many years we’ve seen. Yes, of late it’s been not the kind of performance that he would want, but that can happen to any of the bowlers.
“You can see the opposition as well, it’s not easy to bowl at the death. But we’ve been working on some execution plans and hopefully we can give him more options to bowl in the death and then he’ll be as good as he was before. I don’t think he’s short in confidence, whenever I speak to him the confidence is there, you can have bad games but it’s important to come back from that, and we want him to come back as quickly as possible, because he’s bowled those difficult overs for us in the past.
India have three more games against South Africa before they fly out to Australia for the World Cup. With Bumrah and Harshal backed to man the death overs, it could mean a return to familiar new-ball duties for Bhuvneshwar. There’s also an extra death option in Arshdeep Singh, whose confidence Rohit has been impressed with, if required. Rohit hinted at a slight shift in Bhuvneshwar’s role going forward but didn’t give away much.
“From our side we’re trying to work out what other things we can do,” he said. “Because when you’re bowling in the death you can’t be predictable, you need to have options to bowl on both sides of the ground and sort fields accordingly. Those are the things we’re talking to him about. Someone with that experience, it’ll be easy for him to grasp all the knowledge that is out there.
“He’s done it, it’s there in his mind, it’s not that he will completely forget what he’s done as a bowler in the past, it’s just that he needs to bring that out confidently and things will happen for him. As a team, as management, we believe in his ability, we know a guy like him who more often than not has done the job for us can have a few bad games. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have quality anymore. He definitely has it in him, just that for us it’s time for us to show faith in him and keep backing his skillset, what he wants to execute.”
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo