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Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal can excel in Australia, predicts Ian Chappell

Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal not just rekindled great past peformances by Australia wrist spinners, but even went one better in their miserliness, writes Ian Chappell.

cricket Updated: Feb 18, 2018 09:59 IST
India vs South Africa,Kuldeep Yadav,Yuzvendra Chahal
Indian bowlers Yuzvendra Chahal (L) and Kuldeep Yadav have been key to the team’s 5-1 ODI series win against South Africa.(AFP)

As much as Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan contributed to the Indian dominance in the ODI series against South Africa with four scintillating centuries between them, it’s the wrist spin of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal that ensured the hosts’ humiliating defeat.

The domination of South African batsmen by wrist spinners is nothing new. Kuldeep and Chahal join a list dominated by Australian wrist spinners who have decimated South African batting line-ups, all the way back to 1935-36 and the dynamic duo of Bill ‘Tiger’ O’Reilly and Clarrie ‘The Fox’ Grimmett.

And Australian leggies didn’t have to bear an animal nickname to succeed against South Africa, as instanced by the stellar performances of Richie Benaud and Shane Warne. Like Kuldeep and Chahal, those legendary wrist spinners wreaked havoc playing in South Africa.

AUSSIE WRIST SPIN

The dominance enjoyed by Grimmett and O’Reilly is phenomenal. Of the 98 wickets taken by Australia in the 1935-36 series, they claimed 71 between them, Grimmett performing the incredible feat of three 10-wicket hauls in five matches.

They had the laughably minuscule averages of (Grimmett) 14.59 and (O’Reilly) 17.04. In helping India to clinch the ODI series, Kuldeep’s 17 wickets at 13.88 and Chahal’s 16 at 16.37 improved the amazing figures of the Australian combination.

Even O’Reilly – he despised one-day cricket, referring to it as ‘the pyjama game’ in his newspaper columns – would have beamed with pride at those figures in an era of big bats and short boundaries. As the greatest promoter of wrist spin, he would’ve enjoyed the aggressiveness of the India duo as they bamboozled South African batsmen with their variety of deliveries.

O’Reilly was not exactly enamoured of batsmen. Once asked if he ever tried to Mankad a player, his response is comic genius. “Son,” he proclaimed, “I never found a batsman that keen to get to the other end.”

WRONG ‘UN WOES

He would have enjoyed the South Africa batsmen’s embarrassment as they failed to pick the spin of either Kuldeep or Chahal. This is one reason why wrist spinners are enjoying so much success in the shorter format. Few batsmen pick the wrong ‘un and consequently are hesitant when going for the big shot, often resulting in a mishit.

Kuldeep and Chahal have exploited this flaw unmercifully and they’ve been both brave and shrewd in knowing exactly when and where to flight their deliveries. The first time I saw Kuldeep, I was impressed when he dismissed David Warner in the deciding Test of the 2016-17 series against Australia.

It was courageous captaincy by Ajinkya Rahane in the tense circumstances, but the composure of Yadav soon changed it to a match-turning decision. That was another notable thing about Kuldeep bowling; he’s a rarity for his breed in that he’s much more accurate than the average chinaman bowler.

In an era where the popularity of wrist spin is booming in limited-overs cricket, India has unearthed a pair that is outstanding in skill and confidence. It takes a lot of skill to be a good wrist spinner, but it also requires a big heart to be a top-class purveyor of the art.

AUSTRALIA LOOMING

It’ll be interesting to see what approach India take in their ODI joust when they tour Australia. Coach Ravi Shastri will be well aware of what results good wrist spin can achieve in Australia from his participation in the 1985 World Championship of Cricket.

India won that tournament and Shastri was Player-of-the-Series but the leg spin of Laxman Sivaramakrishnan also played a big part in the overall team success.

On the large Australian grounds good wrist spin can reap vital rewards. If Kuldeep and Chahal maintain their form, they could become famous (or infamous) in Australia, the spiritual home of wrist-spin bowling. The irony would appeal to O’Reilly’s devilish sense of humour.

(Ian Chappell, former Australia cricket team Test captain, writes for Hindustan Times exclusively.)

First Published: Feb 18, 2018 09:50 IST