The International Cricket Council’s decision of suspending Ravindra Jadeja from the third and final Test of the ongoing series India-Sri Lanka series must have dampened the celebrations of second successive Test series triumph on Lankan soil, in the visitor’s camp.
The left-arm tweaker, who claimed a five-for in the fourth innings of the SSC Test and helped Virat Kohli’s men to register yet another innings victory against the hosts on Sunday, won’t be available for selection at Pallekele after accumulating six demerit points inside a 24-month period. The Jamnagar all-rounder had put up a ‘Man of the Match’ performance during the course of India’s an innings and 53-run victory in the second Test, becoming one of only two Indians ever to hit a fifty and take a five-for in the same Test.
Unfortunately, his series is over and now the southpaw has to wait till August 20 to get on the field when the limited-over leg of the tour will commence.
However, Jadeja’s unavailability can be a blessing in disguise for young Kuldeep Yadav, who, quite surprisingly, had been kept out of playing eleven in the previous two Tests of this tour. This decision of the team management raised quite a few eyebrows, especially after the kind of Test debut Kuldeep had earlier this year, against the Australians at Dharamshala. On that high-pressure series decider, his figures of 4 for 68 in the first innings played a crucial role behind India’s path to glory.
Even, coming into this Test series, in the warm-up game against a strong Sri Lanka Board President XI, Kuldeep ripped through the opposition batting with figures of 4 for 14. But despite that, when it came to select the playing eleven, Hardik Pandya got the nod ahead of the Uttar-Pradesh spinner.
It must have been quite demoralising for Kuldeep, who ticked almost all the right boxes to be a part India’s Test squad and is desperately seeking for one opportunity to impress.
In fact, Kohli, as the captain had shown a similar kind of reluctance towards him in the past as well. If media reports are to be believed, during this year’s home series against Australia, then Indian head-coach Anil Kumble was in favour of playing Kuldeep in the Ranchi Test match, but just before the toss, Kohli removed his name from the team list. However, thankfully, the talented youngster went on to make the impressive debut in the very next game, under Ajinkya Rahane, who was a makeshift captain in place of an injured Kohli.
Time to nourish Kuldeep’s rare art
Bowling left-arm Chinaman is a rare art in world cricket right now. Apart from Sri Lanka’s Lakshan Sandakan, there is hardly any such talent feature in top level international cricket at this point of time. So Indian team management should handle him with care.
Through his performances in age-group cricket, domestic circuit and in the Indian Premier League, the 22-year old Kuldeep has already established himself as a bright future prospect for the country. He is someone, who just does not bowl flat left-arm wrist spin, he mixes it up with his variations, especially a decent wrong one, which he disguises quite brilliantly. Besides, the youngster has an excellent control over his length – a quality which is an essential quality for any bowler to be successful in top multi-day cricket.
If Kuldeep comes in the playing eleven at Pallekele, which he is more likely to, then Sri Lankan batsmen have to revisit their ploy of sweeping to negotiate the Indian spinners. Because of his control over length and the speed being on the higher side as a spinner, sweeping against Kuldeep won’t be an easy task. Also, they will be playing him for the first time. Thus, the risk factor will be too high, if likes of Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis or Angelo Mathews try to sweep against him unnecessarily.
In the next couple of years, India will be playing a lot of cricket outside sub-continent, including the 2019 World Cup. Time is running out for the Indian think-tank to find backup options, especially in the spin department as we know the track record of country’s two strike bowlers — Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja have on those non-spin-friendly conditions. Well, on this regard, Kuldeep can turn out to be a handy option, thanks to his unconventional art.
Hope the Indian team management is also thinking on the same line.