Wizards to laggards, time to bounce back
Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav’s fortunes have taken a downturn since the 2019 World Cup league-phase clash versus England in Birmingham. The spin duo were taken to the cleaners by Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow on the fateful afternoon. Since then, they have no longer been India’s preferred spin duo in white-ball cricket.
They played together for India in only a few matches thereafter with the limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka in July being the last occasion. Now, with the emergence of (leg-spinner) Rahul Chahar and “mystery spinner” Varun Chakravarthy, even Chahal, who had been the team’s automatic choice in T20Is, finds no place in India’s squad for the T20 World Cup beginning next month.
Left-arm chinaman Kuldeep’s prospects were in any case on the wane since his indifferent form in limited-overs matches had pushed him down the pecking order. But with senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin too staging a comeback in India’s white-ball squad for the T20 World Cup, the road to return only gets tougher for both Kuldeep and Chahal. Particularly, if Ashwin delivers in the game’s shortest format.
The remaining matches of this year’s IPL, to be held in the UAE, should certainly give the duo some essential game time and scope to prove a point or two. Former India off-spinner Erapalli Prasanna, however, feels they may have to work extra hard to even hold on to their positions in their IPL teams.
“Both of them have a role to play in the IPL. But yes,
they also have a task cut out to keep their respective positions in the IPL,” the 81-year-old Prasanna, who played 49 Tests, said.
In the first part of this year’s IPL, Chahal took only four wickets from seven games at an economy rate of 8.26, while Kuldeep hasn’t featured in any of Kolkata Knight Riders’ matches so far.
Choosing Chahar over Chahal wasn’t a wrong decision, but chairman of selectors Chetan Sharma saying that a spinner faster through the air and off the pitch was preferred for the World Cup squad finds no support from former national selector Sarandeep Singh.
According to Sarandeep, such a view from the chief selector puts Chahal in a tricky situation.
“I don’t really agree with what Mr Sharma said because we usually ask spinners to bowl slower through the air in order to get enough turn. Of course, Chahar has done well recently in T20Is and it was a fair call to select him, though Chahal is more experienced.
“But you can’t compare the styles of one spinner with another. Amit Mishra couldn’t bowl like Anil Kumble as both had different styles.
“The question that arises now is, should Chahal stick to his strengths or try and bowl fast in order to be picked for next year’s (T20) World Cup?” Sarandeep, also a former off-spinner who represented India in three Tests and five ODIs, asked.
So what should be the way forward for Chahal now? “It’s his call to decide whether he should stick to his natural abilities or look to bowl fast,” Sarandeep said.
Advice for Kuldeep
Sarandeep has a simple advice for Kuldeep: Play the entire domestic season and don’t even think of picking and
choosing matches if the left-armer harbours hopes of making a comeback to international cricket.
“If Kuldeep has this mindset of helping Uttar Pradesh achieve success in the Ranji Trophy and other domestic tournaments, and takes the bulk of wickets in successive matches, his prospects will definitely brighten,” Sarandeep emphasised.
Former left-arm spinner Maninder Singh said: “If India want Kuldeep to be back at his best, he shouldn’t play T20s because when he’s taken for runs there, his confidence takes a beating and that affects his performance. It’s best for him if he concentrates fully on first-class cricket.”