The India team seems to be heavily invested in spin, as evident in New Zealand where they had four spinners in the squad for the five-match T20I series that they won 5-0. The spinners however didn’t pass with flying colours. Ravindra Jadeja kept a tidy economy of 5.9 in the three matches he played, Yuzvendra Chahal had his moments but took just three wickets with an economy of 8.35 in five matches, Washington Sundar too conceded 44 runs in five overs while Kuldeep Yadav didn’t get a game at all. Yadav got only one game later, at the first ODI in Hamilton but he leaked 84 runs for just two wickets.
These are not impressive numbers, especially in the run-up to the T20 World Cup this October in Australia. Does this team have spinners who can take conditions out of the picture? That should be the question troubling new chairman of selectors Sunil Joshi, himself a spinner, the most. India are yet to identify that match-winning spinner as their best bet Kuldeep Yadav is woefully short of confidence. Joshi may want to listen to the assessment of previous selection committee chairman MSK Prasad. “Of late, I have seen our spinners are being sorted out. Either our spinners have to come up with new ideas, or we have to use the pool of bowlers from the bench who can be tried out in the next few series,” said Prasad in an interview.
From being India’s match-winning wrist-spinning duo after the 2017 Champions Trophy, Yadav and Chahal’s stocks have plummeted dramatically. They no longer inspire the confidence in the captain to select them together in any match. Yadav has played just one T20I in the last 12 months. In 15 ODIs, he took 17 wickets at an average of 45 in the past year. “There is no doubt about Kuldeep and Chahal’s skill sets but they have to develop something new. They have to keep evolving with every passing series, and come out with a plan to bowl in home and away conditions,” said Prasad.
Captain Virat Kohli has also spoken about Yadav and Chahal’s batting limitations that weaken the lower-middle order. Prasad backs Kohli’s assessment, elaborating the explanation. “Unlike Test cricket, bowling can’t be an exclusive discipline in T20Is. When you look to compare a very good spinner with a spinner who is 20% less (effective) than him but bats and fields well, the latter may be preferred,” said Prasad, explaining how Krunal Pandya and Sundar all had a go.
But with limited time before the World Cup, Joshi and his committee will need to find ways to revive Yadav’s limited-overs career. Yadav hasn’t been the same after the clobbering he got in the last Indian Premier League (9 matches, 4 wickets and an economy of 8.66). He couldn’t build on the hattrick taken against West Indies in an ODI in Visakhapatnam last year either. “The spinners have delivered earlier. Spinners have taken 70% of our wickets in the shorter formats last one year. Full credit to them but now they have to come up with something new. Technology is evolving and opposition comes well prepared. To counter that you need to have sufficient weapons in your armoury. That was the beauty of spinners like Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. They kept adding something to their bowling.”
Ironically Harbhajan doesn’t appear to be a big fan of the Prasad-led selection committee’s spin vision. “They pick this guy called Washington Sundar, who doesn’t even spin the ball. I just don’t get it,” Singh told The Hindu. Sundar, who often bowls in the opening powerplay, fits well in Prasad’s team for the World Cup. “Sundar can be fantastic in T20s, going forward,” he said. Asked to name other backups, Prasad picked Rahul Chahar and K Gowtham.
On excluding Pujara and Rahane in England and South Africa series openers
From the 2018 South Africa series, the new reforms came into picture and the constitution says that the selection committee has no role in picking the playing eleven. I totally disagree. If the selection committee picks team with the captain, what’s wrong in the selector being part of picking the playing eleven? Whoever is the travelling selector carries the collective view of the selection committee. When you are in the team environment, you might not want to disappoint X, Y, Z. But when a selector comes in, he comes with a dispassionate view. That view can come in handy.
Pant over Saha in overseas Tests
I support that. In India, your skills as a wicket-keeper are tested so much. So, we have the best wicket-keeper in Saha, keeping at home, the specialist comes in. Otherwise, it is horses for courses. Your wicket-keeping skill sets are not tested as much as batting while playing abroad. Pant, with his batting, brings more value to the team than Saha while playing abroad. In the history of Indian cricket, Pant is the only wicket-keeper batsman to get a hundred in Australia and England. On his debut, he got 10 catches.
KL Rahul over Pant in white-ball cricket
I don’t know the combinations in mind of the team management. But KL Rahul has justified the faith reposed in him by the team management. In fact, he has exceeded expectations. It’s not that Pant was not given opportunities. What happens is, when you are going through a rough patch, you need to sit back and understand and read your game. He is going through that phase. Sooner or later, he will stake claim again. Currently, with Rahul keeping wickets, it is also helping the team combination. With two good openers at the top, KL Rahul not finding a place with the kind of talent he possesses was unfortunate. With KL keeping wickets and coming in the middle order and showing the responsibility and maturity, he grabbed the opportunity. A good IPL season will help Pant’s cause. He needs a couple of good knocks to keep him in good stead. He is hardly 22, and he will come back strong.
MS Dhoni’s future
I don’t want to say anything on that. He made his point very clear to all of us and it should he kept confidential.
When we gave Kuldeep and Chahal opportunity, they grabbed it with both hands. Jadeja brought in his all-round ability. I don’t say anyone is written off. He is making his best efforts to try and come back. Let’s see how it progresses. When you are playing abroad, teams are picked on your and opposition’s strengths and weakness. He may be missing out because of that. There are no two ways about the fact that Ashwin is a legend. He and Virat are two legends currently playing in the Test team. He is almost like Virat when it comes to the spin department. Everyone goes through this phase. Let’s see how he comes out of it.
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At age of 20-21, one is going to New Zealand in what were tough conditions. It is good that he had this kind of a tour early on in his career. He will quickly understand what is required to succeed at this level. No doubting his talent. He is an all-season player, an all-format player. He needs to understand his game better and his role in the side, which will come with age.