It is a good time to be a wrist-spinner in India, especially with Virat Kohli’s tendency to try at least one of them out in each game of late.
Kuldeep Yadav, the chinaman, and Yuzvendra Chahal, the legspinner, are two wrist-spin options India have at the moment. While Axar Patel, the left-arm spinner, was at the helm of spin-unit affairs for the tour of Sri Lanka, Kuldeep and Chahal made the most of the given chances.
With R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja left out of the side, it remained to be seen how the young spin attack would cope up, but more often than not, they squeezed Sri Lanka with their tidy lines and picked up wickets at a healthy rate. They were not as successful as a Jasprit Bumrah or a Bhuvneshwar Kumar, but their economical spells helped India tie Sri Lanka down each time the hosts threatened to do some damage.
“As a player, you have to perform in every game,” offered Kuldeep after India’s seven-wicket win in the one-off Twenty20 International on Wednesday (September 6). “It’s a pressure game. Everyone has to contribute, especially when the captain and coach decide to rotate players.”
Kuldeep was referring to Kohli’s new-found penchant for experimentation. For the most part, the stance has worked, giving young talents like Kuldeep an extended run in the middle, but there have been certain experiments that did not work. Irrespective, this series has given India a good chance to try out new combinations in the lead up to the 2019 World Cup.
“I am very happy with the policy, you have to give credit to captain and coach because the World Cup is coming and they wanted to try out everyone,” praised Kuldeep.
In Wednesday’s game, after India’s bowlers did a good job of keeping Sri Lanka down to 170, Kohli led yet another assault with a brutal 82 from 54 balls. The Indian skipper smashed seven fours and a six in his quick-fire knock.
“He is a leader. He just leads from the front and gives you everything you want on the field,” said Kuldeep, evidently in awe of Kohli.
“When I am bowling, he comes to me and asks me about what field I would like. That’s what a bowler wants from the captain. He gives bowlers freedom and Virat bhai has given me tremendous support through the Tests and ODI series and now too. So I am very happy with this kind of team unity and the leader.
“While fielding, it is a motivation to see him go about his art with so much determination. Once you watch someone like him work so hard, you are also inspired,” he said.
From the start of the series, Kohli maintained that he would like to mix things up and probably even play two wrist-spinners in a game. For the fifth one-dayer, part of the series which India won 5-0, Kohli rested Axar and played both Kuldeep and Chahal. Both finished their full quota of ten overs and returned with one wicket apiece, but what was most impressive was their discipline in the middle overs. In the T20I, India went in with three spinners, and they put the brakes on Sri Lanka with Kuldeep picking up two wickets for 20 runs and Chahal finishing with 3 for 43.