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India vs West Indies 2019, 1st ODI: Will 'KulCha’ make a comeback at Chepauk?

EXPERT COLUMNIST
Feature
Modified 21 Dec 2019, 01:20 IST

Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal
Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal

Chennai, December 13: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, the newly-added member of the Indian team, were in full flight at the nets on a cloudy afternoon at the MA Chidambaram ‘B’ nets at Chepauk on Friday. 

Team India coach Ravi Shastri headed into the nets followed by India’s lethal spin combo over the last two years - ‘KulCha’ - Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. 

For about 10-15 minutes, Shastri was flanked by Chahal (to Shastri’s right) and Kuldeep, and the coach had a lot to pass on to his premier wrist spinners. Post the pep-talk, the wrist-spin duo started bowling in tandem against the likes of Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey. 

From 3rd September 2017 to June 27, 2019, the ‘KulCha’ combo had bamboozled many a batting unit and had claimed 117 wickets in 33 matches. 

Kuldeep Yadav
Kuldeep Yadav

June 30, 2019

India-England World Cup contest happened in Birmingham and India were hit with a major roadblock. Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow swept, reverse-swept, slogged, pulled, drove and pummelled the Indian wrist spin duo. Yadav conceded 72 runs in 10 overs claiming one wicket, while his partner Chahal gave away 88 runs in 10 overs without a wicket. 

Also see – BPL Most Runs

Post Birmingham, India have played six ODIs and haven’t fielded the ‘KulCha’ combo even in a single game. Either one has featured in the playing XI, while Chahal and Yadav have played three games each. Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who could give more control and an excellent all-rounder, was fielded with one of the wrist-spinners with the occasional part-time spin of Kedar Jadhav. 

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Ahead of the India-West Indies ODI series, which gets underway in Chennai on December 15, Yadav and Chahal bowling together at the nets reminded one of how the ‘KulCha’ combo used to fox batsmen during their good times. 

Will India unleash ‘KulCha’ again against the West Indies in the first ODI? Why is that India haven’t fielded their match-winning combo together over the last four months? 

India bowling coach Bharat Arun said the team was looking at “an ideal combination” that would give them “absolute balance” to the side. 

“Also there was an option, where we could use Jadeja as an all-rounder. So that helped us and yes, there may be occasions when there are conducive conditions both (Kuldeep and Chahal) can be playing together. But we will have to look at the overall balance before we decide the team,” said Arun. 

Yuzvendra Chahal
Yuzvendra Chahal

There was always the risk of wrist spinners going the distance when it’s not their day. But the consistent success of ‘KulCha’, especially in overseas conditions in the build-up to the World Cup, meant that skipper Virat Kohli and Indian team management went for the attacking bowling duo. Finger spinners had little role to play. An all-rounder of Jadeja’s calibre and class found himself on the bench for the first half of the World Cup. 

But the fact that Jadeja is an excellent batsman lower down the order gave him an edge over one of the wrist spinners.  

Though bowling coach Arun did agree that all-rounders give a “different dimension” to the team, he mentioned that one can “forego other aspects” if you can win matches as a pure bowler. 

“If you can bat in ODI and T20 cricket, it will give us a different dimension. You should be exceptional in at least two skills. If they can bat, it lends a lot more balance to the team. But as it is, Kuldeep and Chahal can be match-winners on their day. When it comes to match-winners, you forego the other aspects. They (Kuldeep and Chahal) can win you matches just by one skill alone,” added Arun. 

However, it’s a different scenario in T20s. India have fielded off-spinning all-rounder Washington Sundar regularly in T20s. Arun lauded Washington and stated that the young TN all-rounder “will stake a claim” in the ODIs as well. 

“If you look at Jadeja, we have a ready-made allrounder. From the WC onwards, he has been exceptional for us. He has batted well, bowled well and is the best fielder in the world. He adds a lot of dimension to us. I am sure Washington in due course will stake a claim in ODIs as well. 

“He has done well every time he has been given an opportunity with the ball. He is more than a capable batsman. Every time he has got a chance, he has played a cameo. He is someone who will be considered in the future for ODI cricket as well,” said Arun. 

The wicket at Chepauk traditionally offers spin and ‘KulCha’ announced their arrival at this very ground against Australia in September 2017 as they spun a web around a strong Aussie batting unit sharing five wickets amongst them.

Will ‘KulCha’ make a comeback at Chepauk? Let’s find out this Sunday.

Published 13 Dec 2019, 17:47 IST
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