Facing a left-arm bowler like Trent Boult will be a "challenge" for the India batsmen in the upcoming ODI series against New Zealand, according to vice-captain Rohit Sharma. Even as he said the focus of the team would be to look at New Zealand's bowling attack as a whole, Rohit explicitly spoke about how India haven't had a left-arm quick in their attack in recent times, something which may be a test for their batsmen in the upcoming ODIs starting October 22.
"The last time India had a left-arm seamer was a long time back," Rohit said at Wankhede Stadium, his home ground and venue for the first ODI. "I think Zaheer Khan was the last who played for India in ODI format. Our team is used to that now and we have performed exceedingly well. For us as batters, it will be a challenge to face a left-arm seamer and Trent Boult being one of their prime left-arm fast bowlers, it will be a huge challenge for all the batters to come good against [him]. We played them last time and we know what they'll bring to the table and we know what they're capable of as a bowling unit. It's not just about one left-arm seamer, I guess their complete bowling unit we have to look at."
Zaheer last played an ODI in August 2012 and Irfan Pathan, Jaydev Unadkat and Barinder Sran are the only left-arm quicks to have represented India in a total of 14 ODIs in the last five years. While Ashish Nehra has been around in T20Is, there has been a lack of a genuine left-arm quick in the Indian attack even as Mustafizur Rahman, Mitchell Starc, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Mitchell McClenaghan and others have given left-arm pacers prominence in recent times.
The result of that may have shown in how Australia's Jason Behrendorff used some early swing and the angle against the right-hand batsmen to claim 4 for 21 in a T20 in Guwahati. Facing left-arm quicks is not India's weakness per se, but the deficiency of facing them in the nets means bowlers like Mustafizur (at home in 2015), Boult (last year in India) and Mohammad Amir (in the recent Champions Trophy) have caused cracks in the Indian batting line-up from time to time.
When New Zealand toured India a year ago, Boult, in particular, impressed even on slightly-slower pitches in Delhi, Ranchi and Visakhapatnam where he bagged two wickets each, also dismissing Rohit in two of the four matches he played. Sending out further warnings, Boult picked up 5 for 38 in the first warm-up they played at the Brabourne Stadium when they arrived for the soon-to-begin series.
On Friday evening, even as Rohit spoke about left-arm pacers, the other India batsmen prepared for the challenge by facing long spells from Arjun Tendulkar - Tendulkar junior is a bowler of the same genre - in the nets, not too far from the Wankhede pitch.
Vishal Dikshit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo