The Men in Blue are all set to kick off their long home season against New Zealand starting on Thursday. The long and grueling home season consists of 13 Tests which will provide an opportunity for Virat Kohli & Co to retain their numero uno status in Tests after surrendering it to Pakistan following the washout in the last Test of the Caribbean tour.
As the countdown for the home series against the Black Caps begins, one of the vital talking points before the series must be the Indian spinners. They literally made the star-studded Proteas batting line-up dance to their tune in their last home series and drubbed them 3-0 on spin friendly tracks.
Ravichandran Ashwin has been a revelation for India in Tests and his record especially in India is mind-boggling. In such a short career Ashwin has already bagged the Man of the series award six times which is the most by any Indian player. He has been a match winner for India and would look to add some more records to his kitty before the end of the home summer.
The No.1 off spinner in the world has also provided Virat Kohli the much-needed balance in the team in the batting department that has enabled Kohli to persist with the six batsman and five bowler policy.
The Tamil Nadu lad has already bagged 193 Test wickets in 36 matches at an impressive average of 25.21. Especially in India Ashwin has been unplayable at times and has bagged 126 wickets in 19 matches at a staggering average of 20.92 per wicket. Ashwin has played only two Tests against New Zealand so far bagging 18 wickets at an astonishing average of 13.11 per wicket.
Jadeja has provided Ashwin the ideal support in the spin department especially in home territory and was instrumental in India winning the home series against South Africa 3-0. His pace variations make him a difficult prospect to pick especially in spin friendly tracks.
Jadeja has the uncanny ability to turn the ball at a brisk pace which makes him that more lethal. The left arm spinner from Saurashtra has an impressive record in Tests but hasn’t been able to replicate his heroics in overseas Tests.
In the 17 Tests Jadeja has played so far, he has a tally of 71 wickets at an impressive average of 23.42. Jadeja was a member of the Indian squad when they toured New Zealand in 2014 and could only manage three wickets in two Tests.
Amit Mishra who is the third spinner in the squad has the ability to run through any strong batting line-up single handed but hasn’t been a consistent performer for India. He has been in and out from the Indian side and only poor performances from Ravindra Jadeja can hand him a place in the playing XI anytime sooner for during India’s long home season. Mishra has a total of 71 Test wickets in the 20 matches he has played so far and is yet to appear in a Test match against the Kiwis.
Despite having a lethal spin attack, India must be well aware of the fact that their opposition also has some quality spinners in their ranks and it was evident from the recent meeting between the two countries in the T20 World Cup in India where the spin duo of Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi ripped through the star-studded Indian batting line-up.
The idea of preparing rank turners like the series against South Africa might actually backfire and give the New Zealanders a realistic chance of winning their first ever Test series in India.
India had opted for a similar kind of strategy against England in the 2012-13 home series against England which had backfired miserably after English spinners Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar led England to a famous series win in India.
New Zealand spinners
With three quality spinners in their squad, the New Zealand spinners might give the star-studded Indian batting line-up a run for their money. With the likes of Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi and Mark Craig in the New Zealand line-up, the Indian think tank must be very careful with the sort of pitches they want to prepare for the series.
Though the Black Caps spinners lack experience, they are capable enough to destroy any serious batting line-up and India would look to come prepared after they were shell shocked in the T20 World Cup group game on a spin friendly track by these young spinners. While Mark Craig and Mitchell Santner haven’t played a Test match against India so far, the Indian-born spinner Ish Sodhi has only played a solitary Test against the Men in Blue.
In a relatively short career comprising of only 7 Tests, Santner has picked up 15 wickets in 7 Tests at an average of 29.20. He is also an able lower middle order batsman and can chip in with crucial knocks for the team in crunch situations.
Even though in his short career, Sodhi has a mediocre bowling record, the New Zealand selectors has kept backing him due to the aggressive approach he has shown so far in his short stint in the international circuit. He has a total of 35 wickets in 13 Tests at a poor average of 46.
The third spinner in the Black Caps squad, Mark Craig doesn’t boast of an impressive Test record either but everything can change in the series against India as they are expected to get spin friendly tracks unlike the pitches in New Zealand. Craig has bagged 48 Test wickets in 14 Tests so far at an unimpressive average of 45.56.Published 21 Sep 2016, 12:50 IST