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Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav have big shoes to fill in ODIs and T20s vs South Africa

Having never won a series in South Africa, Indian cricket team will hope Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep yadav will turn it right to outwit the Proteas in ODIs and T20s.

cricket Updated: Jan 31, 2018 17:09 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, Durban
South Africa vs India,SA vs IND,Kuldeep Yadav
Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli would be keen to use Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav as his wicket-taking bowlers during the ODIs and T20 series against South Africa cricket team.(BCCI)

When Indian cricket team played South Africa at the Champions Trophy in June last, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were the frontline spinners with Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav on the fringes.

This time, as they head into a six-match ODI series with the Proteas, much of India’s chances will depend on Chahal and Kuldeep, who have become key men for Virat Kohli over the last six months and displaced Ashwin and Jadeja from the limited-overs set-up.

Testimony to their importance is the 60-time rise in Chahal’s IPL stock from 2014.

But bowling on these surfaces will be tough. They’ll be fighting history and trying to achieve something their more celebrated predecessors weren’t able to.

On India’s last tour to South Africa in late 2013, Ashwin and Jadeja endured a fruitless run in the ODIs. Even here at Kingsmead, which threw up the brownest surface they could have asked for in the southern hemisphere, India lost the series after allowing the Proteas to get to 300+ twice in three innings.

Before them, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, two of India’s most successful spinners, were unspectacular in South Africa. Take out the games against Kenya, Netherlands and Namibia, and the averages become even less flattering.

Chahal, however, has been smart to acknowledge the need to change tactics.

Open to change

“In South Africa, the wickets will be bouncy and there will be less turn, so I have to change my style a bit. Since the ball doesn’t turn much, I won’t be bowling full and will keep it shorter (pull back the length by 4-5 inches),” he said ahead of the ODI series. The leg-spinner spent time at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), working on his length and fitness. There has been training, gym work and bowling at a single wicket.

If NCA’s spin specialist coach Narendra Hirwani is to be believed, Chahal could crack the code.

“He is a chaalaak (smart) bowler. He reads the batsman’s mind very fast. I’d say (Chinaman) Kuldeep is high on skill but takes time to read batsmen. Chahal reads the batsman easily.”

Chahal explained, “I always watch the batsman closely and till the very end.” Like when he got Glenn Maxwell out thrice. The Aussie, capable of destroying spinners, was scalped by Chahal in the first three ODIs last year. On all occasions, the Aussie charged down the wicket and twice Chahal sent it wide outside off, out of his reach.

“Maxwell is good on leg, so I bowled outside off-stump,” said Chahal, a former chess player.

He attributed the presence of mind and mental strength to chess and IPL experience. “International cricket becomes a bit easy because of IPL. You have already played with international cricketers and in front of big crowds. You get used to that kind of setup, scenario and pressure.

“Chess has given me mental strength, especially patience (waiting) for wickets.”

Hirwani, who has also served as a visiting consultant for Haryana, the state Chahal represents at the domestic level, says a few adjustments have had to be made over the years.

“Chahal would come from a wide angle in his run-up. It was changed to a straight run-up. But the biggest thing he has acquired over the years is self-belief. Self-belief helps in building confidence. With it, your skill levels go up. That has happened to Chahal.”

Against the Proteas, who have never lost a series against India in their backyard, Chahal’s self-belief could matter. If it helps India win, it may end up making him one of India’s best spinners in limited-overs.

First Published: Jan 29, 2018 22:44 IST