The Kuldeep snub - a 3 man spin 'attack' only on paper!
Whichever prism you look through, Kuldeep’s repeated snub is sure to hit him hard. Whichever way you slice and dice, Kuldeep was your no.2 strike bowler in Jadeja’s absence.
‘Unfortunate’ is a mild way to portray Kuldeep’s snub from the XI. While it has been difficult to find one reason to pick him, there seems to be million other reasons to not pick him. Team combination, lack of control, lower order batting, lower bounce, slower through the air and the list just seems to drag on. Do these theories hold any water? Is it all that difficult to see why Kuldeep deserves a chance ahead of the late additions to the squad ?
The home spinners are expected to spin a web of wickets, not just empty webs. Jadeja, the bowler, in the last 5 years has become India’s lead strike bowler. The control was always inherent in Jadeja. Jadeja, the batsman’s utility diminishes in home conditions. Not because, he is a lesser batsman, because the top 6 does the bulk of the scoring and you can totally back Ashwin’s ability with the bat, more so after the SCG test.
Who among Kuldeep, Nadeem, Sundar and Axar is the strike bowler ? Nadeem offers control, super canny and a work-horse who can hold one end up efficiently. Axar’s similarity with Jadeja ends with the fact that they are both left-handers and bowl quicker through the air. Washington Sundar played the Brisbane test for a purpose and he did more than what was expected of him. To term him a strike bowler, is stretching things too far. He can be handy with the bat, but there isn’t a pressing need for a strong lower order in home conditions.
Kuldeep, on the other hand, has been with the squad for over 2 years now and has even been backed as the ‘no.1 overseas spinner’ not so long ago. His showing in SCG in 2018 is just an exhibition of what a strike bowler does - Pick up wickets! While Australia has been the least favorite place for visiting spinners, Kuldeep had no such dislike. Anil Kumble, Kuldeep Yadav and ‘end of list’ - when it comes to Indian spinners who have picked up a 5 wicket haul down under since the turn of the century. If that isn’t proof enough, not much else is!
Now, for the variety, how many left arm spinners do we see going around in international cricket ? That speaks a lot about the variety that Kuldeep brings to the table. Yes, direction of the spin does matter, but so do a lot of other things, like angle, pace and variations. Do we ever complain about a right arm inswinging bowler and a left armer who can bring the ball back in to a right hander ?
Kuldeep has more than a decent googly and offers the variety in pace that this team needs. While Ashwin and Nadeem operate in the mid 80s more often that not, Kuldeep is much slower, bringing another dimension to this attack. More time for the batsman to think about the ball making its way, is not necessarily a bad thing every time. The journey a ball takes to the landing spot is as big a factor as what the ball does once it takes off after landing. ‘Mirage of spin’ does funny things in batsman’s mind.
Wrist spinners can bring even a mundane pitch like the one at Chepauk to life, even their rank short deliveries bring about wickets. A captain who loves the 5 bowler theory, who loves the wicket taking option is always a wrist spinner’s best companion. The search for an Embuldeniya like bowler went too far and the match ups seem to have outweighed everything else. If you wanted a 3 man spin attack, Ashwin, Kuldeep and Nadeem was the way to go.
A 3 man spin attack doesn’t serve its purpose if the hopes are pinned on one shoulder. Whichever prism you look through, Kuldeep’s repeated snub is sure to hit him hard. Whichever way you slice and dice, Kuldeep was your no.2 strike bowler in Jadeja’s absence. The only promising thing for Kuldeep is that he has time on his side to show how capable a strike bowler he is all over again.