India vs West Indies: The return of India’s spin-twins
Ind vs WI: India wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, yet to play a T20 together this year, gear up for WindiesUpdated: Dec 05, 2019 08:56 IST
India’s three T20 internationals against West Indies, starting here on Friday, will mark the reunion of India’s spin-twins Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. Strange as it may sound, the two have not played a single T20 together so far this year. Post the 2017 Champions Trophy, Yadav and Chahal were ear-marked as India’s answer to the wrist-spin trend in world cricket, bamboozling batsmen with their trickery and creating wicket-taking opportunities for the captain.
How and why did the match-winning duo lose favor? And have those who replaced them, cracked the code? The last official reason given for separating the Yadav-Chahal combination was to allow for a stronger batting line-up in the team.
“The increased depth in batting was one of the reasons why Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal were excluded,” captain Virat Kohli said a couple of months ago. “If all teams in the world are batting till 9 and 10, then why can’t we?”
A look at India’s T20 line-ups this year reveal that as many as seven spinners have been tried out across 13 matches; Krunal Pandya emerging as the most consistent choice, featuring in 12 of those matches. Pandya is not in the squad for the West Indies series. During the course of the year, the selectors picked leggies like Mayank Markande and Rahul Chahar too, but they ended up playing just one match each.
Off-break all-rounder Washington Sundar and Pandya—with his heavy hitting to supplement his left arm spin—both got extended stints, in line with Kohli’s desire for a squad packed with batsmen. Yet, as bowlers, their impact has been limited. Pandya leaked too many runs, and was often not given his full quota of four overs. In 12 matches, he picked up eight wickets at an economy rate of eight. Sundar has been more economical, and was even trusted with powerplay overs, but with just three wickets from eight games, he is not an attacking option.
Ravindra Jadeja too returned to the mix after his World Cup exploits, getting four T20I’s this year, where, true to his track-record, he has been economical, conceding only 5.27 runs per over.
Does Yadav’s comeback hint to the Indian team wanting to use spin aggressively again? After a not-so-memorable IPL this year, the selectors had effectively sidelined the chinaman bowler; the last T20 Yadav played was in February. There is no doubting Yadav’s abilities. Overall, he has bagged 35 wickets in 18 T20s at an economy rate of 6.72.
“I’m a massive Kuldeep Yadav fan and in terms of strike rates you see he is the quickest to 100 ODI wickets,” former team India batting coach Sanjay Bangar told broadcaster Star Sports recently. “And even in the shorter format, if you look at the match we won in England, he picked up five wickets at a time where the opposition was running away with the match.
“I wouldn’t count out Kuldeep Yadav. It’s just that he’s had a couple of poor games in the IPL last season. For him, this IPL (2020) is going to be a massive factor and if he does really well, it will be very hard to keep him out,” he added.
The selectors lost confidence in Chahal too; the wiry leg spinner has only featured in seven matches this year in India colours. But Chahal, like Yadav, remains a wicket-taker, with 50 scalps in 34 T20s. Three more and he would have the most T20 wickets by an Indian bowler.
“I think this is the right series to get them back. West Indies struggle against wrist spin,” says former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin, who will be keenly watching the proceedings as President of Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA).
With the T20 World Cup scheduled in Australia next year, spin may have to take a backseat to pace. But a solidly attacking spin pair—the very thing the Yadav-Chahal combination had earlier shown they had in spades—will always trouble batsmen in any condition. As long as they find their groove back.