The last time selectors decided to “rest” a cricketer, he not only lost his place in the national team but was also later ignored for the Duleep Trophy. Eventually, he also failed to make the cut in the fourth-string Board President’s XI side, which will play a warm-up game against Australia. The man in question is Yuvraj Singh. So when selectors tell you a player has been rested, there’s always room to be suspicious.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will not feature in the first three ODIs against Australia. Instead, the spin trio of Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav – who had an impressive outing in Sri Lanka – will continue to shoulder the responsibility of spin bowling.
Chief selector MSK Prasad pointed out that Ashwin and Jadeja have been rested as per the rotation policy but numbers show that the duo hasn’t been the same force in ODIs, as they are in Tests.
The Ashwin-Jadeja conundrum
They have bossed the Test scene in 2016 and 2017 but their ODIs numbers are similar to that of any run-of-the-mill bowler. Jadeja has picked 11 wickets in 15 ODIs, while Ashwin got 10 in the 11 matches he played.
Their inability to translate their Test form into the limited-overs cricket had a big impact on India’s performance in the 2017 Champions Trophy as rival sides regularly piled up big scores against Virat Kohli’s side.
Pitches in England hardly responded to the finger spinners and both of them were reduced to the role of run-savers rather than wicket-takers. The country will also host the 2019 World Cup.
On the other hand, in the limited opportunities that they have got, Chahal and Kuldeep have displayed that they can be a potent threat in ODIs. Both the spinners have picked 11 wickets in seven matches at a strike rate of less than 35.
Wrist spinners have performed better on flat pitches in comparison to finger spinners and with their vast array of skills – chinaman, googly, top spinner – they have the ability to take regular wickets. Kohli also heaped praise on the both spinners after the Sri Lanka series and seemed impressed with their ability to dismiss batsmen during the middle overs.
“Kuldeep and Yuzi Chahal, being wrist spinners, will always keep you in the game. They are pretty spot on with attacking the batsmen all the time. I certainly felt that all three (including Axar Patel) of them were pretty spot on with attacking all the time. It really helped us get those crucial wickets in the middle overs, and at the same time, helped us control the run rate as well,” Kohli said after the series win.
In order to win matches, India can’t afford to play two defensive bowlers – which opens up a slot for an attacking bowler. Jadeja’s all-round skills – better batting ability and exceptional fielding – gives him an edge over Ashwin in limited-overs cricket. The same goes for Axar Patel. For no fault of his own, the left-arm spinner – who has impressed in Sri Lanka – could be made to make way for the senior left-arm spinner.
The 2019 World Cup is less than two years away and the team management’s top priority is to finalise the most formidable team combination before the ultimate battle. And the omission of India’s premier spinner for a big series like the one against Australia is a clear indication that the selectors are ready to move beyond Ashwin.
Feature image: AFP