Opinion: Playing Kuldeep and Chahal in ODIs was a masterstroke by Virat Kohli
Going by numbers, Virat Kohli, the captain, has achieved great things so far in his tenure. Winning the Adelaide Test in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2018-19, he became the first Asian captain to win a Test match in South Africa, England, and Australia.
In ODI cricket, Kohli is third on the list for most wins after 50 matches after Ricky Ponting and Clive Lloyd.
Though, the above-mentioned things are often sidelined by the critics, saying that Virat Kohli is leading a strong side to lose many games. He has always been under fire about his tactics on and off the field. More importantly, he is lambasted for his team selection, most of the times.
Virat Kohli has tried his best to turn the views about his captaincy. In the process, he has taken quite a few bright and innovative decisions that have brought great results for the team, and opting for the pair of wrist spinners looks like one of them.
After an unexpected defeat to Pakistan in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, India started to think beyond the experienced spin-duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja whose performance was continuously going downward.
After giving one last chance to Ashwin and Jadeja in the ODI series against the Windies that followed the Champions Trophy, the selectors dropped them from the squad that was scheduled to play a five-match ODI series in Sri Lanka. India had picked Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, and Kuldeep Yadav for the spin-bowling role.
Axar Patel, the alternative for Ashwin and Jadeja for a long time, was spontaneously considered up front, alongside Chahal or Kuldeep.
Although Axar had performed good with the ball, yet in the fifth and last match of the series, captain Kohli decided to play both wrist spinners in the playing eleven.
It turned out to be a masterstroke, as the pair of Kuldeep and Chahal has gathered staggering numbers since then.
Great stats under the belt for the duo
In these 19 matches, the spin-pair has picked 86 wickets, that is more than 50% of the wickets picked by the whole team; Kuldeep has snared 48 wickets at 16.16 with his left-arm chinaman; Chahal has collected 38 wickets at 20.73 with his right-arm leg-break.
Picking up 33 wickets at 15.09 in six matches, the pair was instrumental in the series victory in South Africa.
Proving the critics wrong
Playing the two wrist spinners in the line-up was not reckoned a good move by many, but the duo has proved his captain's decision pinpoint.
The pair has done a commendable job in the middle overs to allow India to manipulate the most important stage of the game. They have done the damage, not only in middle overs but also in powerplay when the team needed.
Now and then, Virat Kohli has lured to dissolve the pair for the sake of lengthening the batting order as Jadeja has been brought to the playing eleven for Kuldeep or Chahal.
But, considering that the grouping of both wrist spinners has the ability to turn the match quickly, playing them both in the same eleven seems a better option to go with.