The idea was to get wickets in the middle overs, something which Ashwin and Jadeja had failed to do against Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the tournament. The results of this novel approach were profitable in the short run, as, guided by Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps, leggie Yuzvendra Chahal and Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav bamboozled batting lineups, giving India breakthroughs on placid wickets. Bowling in tandem, the tweakers looked dangerous, and India’s strategy of gambling runs for wickets was praised all around.
Kuldeep took a hat-trick at Kolkata against Australia in September 2017, while Chahal took six for 42 in an ODI against the Aussies at the MCG in January 2019, becoming the first spinner to take six wickets in an ODI in Australia. Having not played a Chinaman before, batsmen confessed they had no idea how to play Kuldeep, while Chahal too grew from strength to strength. Their exploits earned them the famous nickname of ‘Kul-Cha.’
However, it is ‘Kul-Cha’ now which looks set to be dumped in the bin. On Friday night during the second ODI against England at the MCA Stadium in Pune, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes tore into Kuldeep, taking 84 off his 10 overs. On a flat track, the Kanpur man — who went for 0-68 in nine overs in the last game — seemed to be struggling for ideas.
“ Dum lagake daale toh kutch milega (Put some effort you’re your bowling),” wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant told the 26-year-old. However, what followed was Stokes tonking him for three consecutive sixes in the 33rd over. One could sympathize with the young spinner as a clearly displeased Virat Kohli had a discussion with Kuldeep after the over.
While there’s a big question mark on Kuldeep’s India career from here, Chahal being benched from the first two ODIs too doesn’t inspire confidence. The Haryana and RCB leggie has often been taken to the cleaners in T20Is and needs to re-inspire confidence.
What made India’s spin woes acute was the mediocre performance of left-arm spinner Krunal Pandya, who was taken for 72 runs in just six overs. Clearly, Pandya looks more at home as a T20 bowler, and India need someone better in the 50-over format.
That brings us to the moot point. While Washinton Sundar is likely to play in the decider now, and Ravindra Jadeja would walk into the team post after his recovery, isn’t it time that Ashwin gets an ODI recall?
Cricket, after all, is a game of skills, and Ashwin has more than plenty of them.