Asia Cup 2018: Spinners’ time to rewrite desert rules
Spinners will be under focus when six teams battle it out for the coveted Asia Cup, beginning September 15. At a time when most teams struggle to fit in one spinner, defending champions India have the luxury of two match-winning wrist spinners — Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal — in their ranks. Afghanistan have picked four spinners in their 17-member squad while Pakistan, Sri Lanka and 2016 finalists Bangladesh also have quality names.
Despite the conditions, fast bowlers have generally come out on top in the UAE. In 23 ODIs at Dubai, fast bowlers have accounted for 177 wickets as compared to spinners’ 132. In Abu Dhabi, they have taken 324 wickets in 37 ODIs while the spinners have scalped 190. But with spinners, especially the likes of Chahal and Yadav, making their presence felt more than ever, this Asia Cup could provide a different story.
NEED TO REFOCUS
India’s transition from finger-spin to wrist-spin has so far been successful. Since the 2017 Champions Trophy, India have won 22 of their 29 completed ODIs and registered six series victories. By being attacking as well as economical, Yadav and Chahal have been a bonus for skipper Virat Kohli. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja weren’t able to do the same in the Champions Trophy and India, as repeatedly pointed out by Kohli, want wicket-taking options as they finalise their squad for the 2019 World Cup in England.
The ODI series against England in July, which India lost 2-1, was a rare instance when Yadav and Chahal failed to make much impact. Former India spinner Arshad Ayub praised both wrist-spinners but said their task will be cut out if India are to win their seventh Asia Cup title.
“I must say they have been brilliant. But against England (in the last two ODIs), I think they put extra pressure on themselves. They were pitching it too up or too short. They were not really bowling a consistent line. They need to understand that they’ll not get four-five wickets every match” said Ayub, who took 41 wickets in 13 Tests between 1987-89.
“The tournament (Asia Cup) presents a good opportunity to rectify their mistakes. For me, India have the best spin attack among all teams and I’m sure they’ll come out on top.”
Maninder Singh too highlighted some important points. “His (Kuldeep) front arm drops down too early. The bowling arm gets the strength from the front arm. He’s trying to generate all power from his bowling arm, which will not reap dividends on a consistent basis. He needs to work on this aspect,” said Maninder, who took 88 wickets in 35 Tests.
“As for Chahal, he’s trying to read the batsmen too much and that’s why he wasn’t effective in England. It would be better that he sticks to his basics.”
RASHID, SHADAB KEY
Also in limelight will be Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan, a consistent performer in limited-overs. He’ll be joined by Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Sharafuddin Ashraf, the left-arm wrist-spinner who last played an ODI in March this year.
“Rashid has got a great attitude and that’s his strength. The best thing is he doesn’t try too much. Someone like Chahal can learn from him,” said Maninder.
Akila Dananjaya, who has taken 17 wickets in 10 ODIs this year, will be the man to watch out for Sri Lanka. Last year, he bamboozled India with his mystery spin. This year, Dananjaya registered his career-best ODI figures (6/29) against South Africa who struggled to read him throughout their tour.
For Pakistan, all eyes will be on 19-year-old leg-spinner Shadab Khan, who will have to play a big role to play in the absence of Imad Wasim, who has fitness issues. Given that Pakistan’s home games and the Pakistan Super League (PSL) are played in the UAE, Shadab will have a better hang of the conditions.
For Bangladesh, Shakib Al Hasan is in doubt as he hasn’t fully recovered from his finger injury. If he pulls out, off-spinner Mehedi Hasan will have a big responsibility on his shoulders.