CHENNAI: Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, K Gowtham, Krunal Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav and Varun Chakravarthy. Six of these (not counting Washington Sundar who is in England) will audition in Sri Lanka in the upcoming ODI and T20I series for the two slots that remain available for India at the T20 World Cup. With Ravindra Jadeja being an automatic pick, and Axar Patel not in the limited-overs scheme of things yet, India are far from identifying who the other spinners will be.
Two years ago, it would have been unthinkable to look beyond Chahal and Kuldeep. Since coming together in 2017, they were the preferred duo in limited-overs. While the reinvention of Jadeja, the batsman, has made him untouchable, the dip in form of Kuldeep and the inability of the pacers to be handy with the batting, is having a ripple effect on the composition of the spinners.
Over the last few T20 series, India has made their intentions clear about having depth in batting, especially after the ODIs in Australia, where their long tail and the absence of a sixth bowling option hurt them badly. They quickly changed their template at home against England, giving enough indications as to what to expect at the T20 World Cup.
But those decisions were also made in the absence of some of their regular pacers. Right through the five T20Is and three ODIs against England, India took the field with only two bowlers not known for their batting. The inclusions of Gowtham and Krunal are in line with their new philosophy of adding batting depth. That India have Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur and Deepak Chahar, who can all make contributions with the bat isn't to be missed.
The two slots which India can be used to fill bowlers who don't bat will now more or less determine their combination. Here is where their headaches turn into a migraine. Their premier pacers – Jasprit Burmah and Mohammed Shami — fall in the one-dimensional category. Coincidentally, all their wrist spinners too are not handy with the bat.
With the T20 World Cup expected to be played on slow and tired pitches in the UAE, former India spinner Laxman Sivaramakrishnan feels India should go have a surprise element in the mix. “30 matches of IPL, followed by qualifiers and if you get back to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, pitches will definitely slow down. Spin will have a huge role to play. It is why teams who have the spinners who can take wickets in the middle-overs will be the team that will win the World Cup. And we have to pick spinners, who the world doesn't know. You to have a surprise element. These are things you need to look,” he said.
While India have had a fixation with wrist-spinners in limited-overs, they have changed this trend with Washington and Axar getting game time during the England series. “Finger spinner or wrist-spinner, one who gets to turn more should be there. If the ball turns, there will be a deviation and the batsman will only get to pick the line. And your spinners have to be attacking because if they pick up wickets, the opposition will not have wickets in hand to go hammer and tongs in the end. Forget about conceding runs, because even if he concedes eight an over, and gets two wickets, he has done his job,” said Sivaramakrishnan.
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