India vs South Africa: File image of Jasprit Bumrah© AFP

India must focus on increasing the bench strength of their pace attack in 2024 as the Centurion Test exposed chinks in that department, reckons former pacer Irfan Pathan. Mohammed Shami’s absence was felt badly in the heavy loss to South Africa in the opening Test of the two-match series in the Rainbow Nation last week.

Jasprit Bumrah, who did not get the support from the likes of Shardul Thakur and Prasidh Krishna in the first Test, is also injury prone. Speaking to Star Sports on areas India need to improve in the new year, Pathan said: “India need to prepare a good fast bowling unit in 2024. We saw what happened in South Africa, the back ups were not ready. Shami was missed.

“If god forbid, something happens to Bumrah as we have seen in the past, injury can happen to him. If we don’t prepare a big pool, we won’t get quality pacers like them (Bumrah, Shami). You need to have 7-8 pacers ready for the highest level,” he said.

Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar wants the Indian team to have the right blend of youth and experience.

“The biggest focus should be on having a good blend of youth and experience. Because that is always something that comes in handy. You need to have a wise cool head to temper the excitement of the younger blood,” said Gavaskar.

India must also prepare leaders to take over from Rohit Sharma in due time, added Pathan.

“Leadership is another area we need to focus on. We need to have 2-3 leaders ready as this year we can see many changes. India did very well under Kohli in Test cricket for five years. He led from the front.

“Same with Rohit who led us to the World Cup final and we won Asia Cup under him. We need to groom leaders like them,” added Pathan.

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