Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravichandran Ashwin have been named as the frontline spinners in India's squad for the upcoming Men's T20 World Cup in Australia. But only one of them might make the cut to the playing XI owing to the conditions on offer.
For those unaware, the pitches in Australia are expected to be good for batting, with bounce being a crucial factor. While the long boundary dimensions might tempt teams into fielding two spinners, India have a second spinner to fall back on in all-rounder Axar Patel.
Both Rajasthan Royals (RR) teammates could well be jostling it out for one spot come October 23, when India face arch-rivals Pakistan in their T20 World Cup opener at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
#1 Recent returns of the two players
Since returning to India's T20I setup at the T20 World Cup last year, Ashwin has bagged 14 wickets from 11 games at 18.00 apiece. His economy rate of 5.73 is what stands out, making him a phenomenal defensive spinner in this period.
Chahal was left out of the marquee event last year. Since his return to the T20 side post that, he has bagged 22 wickets from 20 games at 22.77 apiece and an economy rate of 7.75. In terms of strike rate, Ashwin's stands at 18.86 in this period while Chahal has struck every 19.04 deliveries.
While that isn't a telling difference, their economy rates and averages tell a story. With the leg-spinner going for runs aplenty in recent times, this recent form could tip the scales in favor of his IPL teammate at the T20 World Cup.
#2 Matchups against Pakistan and South Africa
India are grouped alongside Pakistan, South Africa and Bangladesh, apart from two other qualifiers in the Super 12 stage of the T20 World Cup. A look at the likely batting lineups of Pakistan and South Africa in particular makes a case for Ashwin's inclusion.
The Tamil Nadu off-spinner boasts of an excellent record against left-handers. While Pakistan could field Mohammad Nawaz, Shan Masood and Khushdil Shah in their XI, South Africa are likely to field Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw and David Miller in theirs.
Bangladesh, too, have Shakib Al Hasan and Afif Hossain in their ranks. This factor could well see Ashwin edge Chahal out as the lead spinner.
#3 Batting depth
While it isn't wise to pick frontline bowlers purely on the basis of what they offer with the bat, this is a factor that cannot be ignored. More so in the wake of Jasprit Bumrah's injury, which would make it prudent for India to lengthen their batting lineup for an extra cushion of runs.
To that end, Ashwin has a clear advantage over Chahal and this could prompt the team management to pick the former for their T20 World Cup opener. While it remains to be seen if they will tread that path, he also offers a tempting pinch-blocker/hitter option against the menacing Pakistani pace battery. Especially when he wouldn't back away from pulling the shutters down on his innings himself to make way for his colleagues to take guard.
191 runs at a strike rate of 141.48 in IPL 2022 summed up the giant strides he has made with the bat. This is an enticing factor that could well egg the Indian team management into picking him over Chahal come October 23.
Who among Ashwin and Chahal should India pick for their first game against Pakistan? Let us know in the comments!
Poll : Who should India pick as their frontline spinner come the T20 World Cup?