Is this the end of the road for R Ashwin in India’s ODI team?
The recently concluded series between the Men in Blue and the Aussies emphasised the importance of wrist spinners in the Indian squad.
With the rise of young wrist spinners such as Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, it seems a daunting and arduous task for Ravichandran Ashwin to make a comeback to the team.
Ashwin made his ODI debut back in 2010 and has been the forefront of the Indian bowling attack since then. However, over the last three years, his inability to take wickets during the middle overs has come under a lot of scrutinies.
Drastic change in bowling numbers
Over the years, there has been a decline in his overall performance, which is in total contrast with his Test stats. Ashwin has taken 292 Test wickets at an impressive average of 25.26 with four test centuries under his belt as well.
Whereas, in ODI’s, he was able to take only one four-wicket haul in the 111 matches he has played with a bowling average of 32.91 and an economy of little less than five. His economy rate has increased which shows his inability to create pressure during the middle phase of the game. He averages 37.73 when India is travelling which was evident during the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
It was his inability to create pressure in the middle overs was one the key factor which prompted the selectors to give a chance to the newbies.
Emergence of young spinners
Kuldeep Yadav started off as a fast bowler when he first joined a cricket academy in Kanpur but was asked by his coach, Kapil Pandey, to switch to something rare - left-arm wrist spin.
It was the 2014 edition of the U-19 World Cup that pushed his stocks higher. Kuldeep took a hat-trick in the game against Scotland and grew in stature in the following games. With the Kolkata Knight Riders, he bowled with an impressive economy alongside Sunil Narine and was able to establish himself in the Uttar Pradesh and India A side.
Yuzvendra Chahal is an attacking leg-spinner who first attracted attention when he took 34 wickets in the National Under-19 Cooch Behar Trophy in 2009, thus ending the tournament as its leading wicket-taker.
He was the highest wicket-taker for the Royal Challengers Bangalore for two years running between 2015-16 which helped him earn his maiden ODI call in 2015 against Zimbabwe.
Kuldeep and Chahal have taken 18 and 17 wickets respectively from their 11 ODI matches at an average of 24.38 and 25.70 respectively. It’s not just the numbers but the mindset with which these two young bowlers have bowled that has caught everyone's eyes. The manner in which they give flight to the ball despite being attacked from the opposition batsmen shows that they believe in their skills.
They both possess the ability and the skill to take wickets at crucial moments and to maintain the pressure during the middle overs, which is evident from their bowling economies of 4.78 and 4.50 respectively.
Spinning a web around the oppositions
The ability of both the spinners to generate something from the pitch even when there is nothing to offer proves their worth.
Kuldeep’s brilliant hat-trick against the Aussies was a testimony to the skill that he brings to the table while playing for India.
Chahal was able to fox Maxwell thrice in the recently concluded ODI series which shows his temperament when bowling under pressure situations. Apart from their performance against Australia, their performance against Sri Lanka, too, helped India make a clean sweep possible. Partnership plays an important role whether it is bowling or batting and the two young spinners are enjoying their moments together.
Future looks bright
With the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, and Mohammad Shami in the armoury, the only concern for Team India is to find right spinners who can control the game in the middle overs.
As the tracks are becoming more conducive for batting, the importance of restricting the opposition in the middle phase of the game has considerably increased.
As these two are still young and have a lot of potential, they can help India win major trophies in the upcoming tournaments. Keeping the 2019 World Cup in mind which will be in England, these the Kuldeep-Chahal duo will be able to attain a lot of experience till then with India travelling to South Africa and England next year.
Ashwin, being the first choice spinner for test matches, is trying to put pressure on the selectors through his all-round performance for Worcestershire in the English County. Unfortunately, it’s still going to be an uphill task for him to make a comeback to the Indian squad.