The Indian team might shed their affinity for featuring two spinners in their Test line-up when they tour South Africa next year, and might not play both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja together in the three-Test series.
Speaking on the team composition for the gruelling tour that follows the ongoing Sri Lanka series, captain Virat Kohli told reporters:
"I can't commit to that 100 per cent when we play abroad that we will be playing with two spinners, to be honest. It is because we need to have a look at the balance of the side as well. Obviously, those two guys with their batting abilities are both contenders to start a Test match depending upon the batsmen we are up against in the opposition".
In case you didn’t know…
India had a bumper home season before the IPL 2017, losing just one out of their thirteen games on home soil. A highlight of their successful run was the form of their two main spinners, Ashwin and Jadeja. The off-spinner picked up 81 wickets from 13 games, breaking Kapil Dev’s record for most wickets in a home season.
Jadeja, on the other hand, bowled consistently economical lines while picking up wickets at regular intervals, and reached the top of the ICC Test rankings for bowlers during his successful run.
The heart of the matter
Kohli spoke about the rationale behind picking up a frontline spinner on overseas pitches, saying that the angle that a spinner makes to a batsman is a crucial criterion in these scenarios.
"It's very important to understand if a left-arm spinner is bowling to five right-handers or the off-spinner is bowling to four left-handers. Just because of the angle the ball coming in makes so much difference against a spinner. And it can turn away from you at some stage in the Test match. Those are very minor factors that you assess before picking the first spinner in overseas conditions."
After the end of the ongoing Test series against the Lankans, and the limited-overs games that follow, (the final T20 being on December 24), the Indian team will fly to South Africa on December 27.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, they say. The bouncy pitches in South Africa will be a far cry from the slow and low surfaces of the subcontinent, which might not assistant the Indian spinners as much. In such a scenario, picking either of Ashwin or Jadeja could make more sense, depending on the number of right and left-handers the Proteas play with.
The horses for courses approach might also help accommodate an extra batsman if needed, given the Indian batting track record of getting exposed on conditions that assist pace and swing.