There is no shortage of spin bowling resources in Indian cricket at this point of time. From finger spinners to wrist spinners, from traditional off-break and leg-break to left-arm Chinaman, it seems Virat Kohli’s team has every possible variety in the spin department.
However, this overcrowded spin-brigade has also created a serious selection headache for the MSK Prasad-led national selection committee as well as for the team management. On one hand, there are young and exciting prospects like Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who have literally forced the Australian batting to dance to their tunes in the in the ongoing limited-overs series, whereas on the other side there are experienced seniors like Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, who are still India’s destroyer in chief, when it comes to Test cricket.
Thus, under these scenarios, one believes, time has come for the selectors to pick the bowlers according to the formats and recent form, rather than based on previous performances and seniority. And if the selection panel follows this process, then one must admit that there is a serious threat to the limited overs careers of both Jajeda and Ashwin, who are clearly a fading brand in white-ball cricket at present.
Jadeja and Ashwin currently rank No. 2 and 3 respectively in ICC’s Test bowlers’ rankings. Last season India played a lot of red-ball cricket in slow-low spin-friendly wickets and the duo quite expectedly was India’s destroyer in chief throughout. However, when it comes to limited-overs cricket, the career graphs of both Jadeja and Ashiwn doesn’t exactly showcase the same amount of success, especially in the 50-over format in the past year and a half.
Since the limited-overs tour of Australia at the start of 2016, both Ashwin and Jadeja have struggled in the One-Day International (ODI) format. Ashwin had played 11 ODIs and taken 10 wickets at an average of 55.80, and a strike rate of 56.40 between then and now. In fact, during this period he wasn’t even India’s first-choice spinner in white-ball cricket, especially overseas. Jadeja, during the same phase, played 15 ODIs and picked up 15 scalps, at 67.09 and had a strike rate of 76.30.
In T20Is, the duo seems to have a better record. In the past year and a half India played a lot of 20-over cricket, including the Asia Cup as well as the World T20 and both Ashwin and Jadeja did fairly well. Since the start of 2016, both of them featured in 18 T20Is and took 40 wickets together.
However, unfortunately, they have failed to emulate their T20I and Test form in the ODI format and that has been the most worrying factor for the selectors, who are trying to build a team for the 2019 World Cup.
It seems values like accuracy — to land the ball on the same spot mechanically, which works for them like a charm in Test cricket, makes it easier for batsmen to line them up in the shorter versions. Furthermore, the finger spinners do not get the same bounce or impart as much side-spin as wrist spinners like Kuldeep or Chahal, which makes bowlers like Ashiwn and Jadeja more predictable and in this era of power-hitting being predictable is the greatest sin for a spinner.
Of late, it has been noticed on a number of occasions that both Ashwin and Jadeja have failed to keep the opposition batsmen check in the middle overs. In fact, various teams have successfully targeted the duo and both of the spinners have succumbed under pressure. The Champions Trophy final was a classic example of that. A lot of times we have seen both of them not completing their quota of 10 overs, which shows captain’s lack of confidence in them.
So, here lies the important question.
Are Ashwin and Jadeja well past their prime in white-ball cricket?
Well, they might have actually. In fact, I believe the selectors also think on the same lines. Though it is too early to write the duo off completely from India’s frame of schemes for the 2019 World Cup, but if they are continued to be ‘rested’, series after series, then soon it will be crystal clear that the team management wants to look beyond Ashwin and Jadeja.