Not long ago, India flaunted a lethal spin attack in 50-over cricket. Wrist-spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav were in the forefront of a revolution of sorts and Ravindra Jadeja added scary depth to the lineup. Irrespective of the conditions and pitches they played on, the Indian team management was prepared to barter extra runs for a few wickets.
Now we have both Chahal and Kuldeep sitting in the dugout cooling their heels on a day when the Pune pitch gripped and took more turn than the previous two ODIs. Washington Sundar, an evolving white-ball specialist, too wasn’t opted for. The result of Sunday’s match notwithstanding, it’s obvious that the team management has very little confidence in its lead white-ball spinners. Even Krunal, then again, arrival of Ravindra Jadeja could alter the team composition.
“There’s no bowler in the world who can guarantee results in every match even if it is a Jasprit Bumrah or a Mohammad Shami. If Jadeja wasn’t available, the selectors could have kept Axar Patel in the squad,” former India pacer Ashish Nehra told TOI.
But here’s the catch. Much of the wrist-spinners’ success up to the 2019 World Cup depended on the incisive opening spells bowled by the pacers with the new ball. Chahal, on multiple occasions, had told TOI that the job of the two spinners were made easier by the new-ball pacers, mostly Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar. The wickets up front allowed the spinners the breathing space to settle down and apply pressure on the opponents.
The incisive new-ball spells went missing in the last three ODI series even with Bumrah and Shami in the lineup. The last two ODIs too produced no wickets with the new ball. Unlike an out-of-form batsman, a struggling bowler has no place to hide when the team opts for just five specialists.
On Sunday, Bhuvneshwar hit his strides and provided two early wickets in the first 10 overs in a match when India decided to use Hardik as the sixth option. It pegged England back and laid the ideal platform for the spinners to come in and rediscover some rhythm. Both Chahal and Kuldeep would be pulling their hair off!