“With 2019 World Cup scheduled to be played in England, Kuldeep and Chahal’s success in South Africa has only strengthened India’s bowling attack. Conditions in England won’t be very spin-friendly and if Kuldeep and Chahal manage to replicate similar magic, India will only find themselves in a comfortable position”.
The lethal duo
Prior to the start of the series, if one would have said that Indian spinners would have wreaked havoc in South Africa, it would have been no less than an exaggeration. But we are three games into the series and Indian spinners, wrist-spinners – to be precise, have scalped 21 wickets out of the total 28 South African wickets that have fallen in three innings.
South African conditions are conventionally acknowledged to assist seamers. But wrist-spinners hardly bank on conditions. If they pitch the ball in right areas and attack, it can test the Achilles heels of best of the line-ups. They might go for runs, and one needs to show faith in them and give them the liberty to attack.
In the Cape Town ODI, wrist-spinners once again wreaked havoc and turned the game on its head. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal accounted for eight wickets between them and helped India achieve a convincing 124-run victory. India have now gained an unassailable lead of 3-0 in the six-match series. This was the second occasion in three games, where Kuldeep and Chahal accounted for eight wickets between them. Chahal has 11 South African scalps in his basket while Kuldeep has been equally effective with 10 from three outings in South Africa now.
On a whole, the duo have bowled 52.2 overs between them, conceding 190 runs and picking 21 wickets along with two maidens. Both the bowlers have made the difference in this series so far, they have kept the batsmen on their feet and dominated in their own den. India does have an intimidating seam attack, but the duo have taken the centre stage in three games so far, such has been the impact of wrist-spinners.
Indian skipper and the team management have shown immense faith in their abilities, which is now reaping fruitful dividends. How often do we see two spinners playing an ODI game together in South Africa? Well, it’s an oddity. The rate at which they have been achieving success is staggering. In fact, veteran spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been out of contention in shorter formats in the recent times.
“The thing is very simple. They are told to go for wickets at all times. When you are going for wickets you are bowling in areas that are uncomfortable for the batsmen and more often than not, they end up defending. When you bowl wide and try to save runs then you give an opportunity to take singles also. So I think all the credit has to go to them because they’ve executed those lines and lengths perfectly. They’ve always, every over, they’ve asked two-three questions of the batsmen. That is something outstanding. I haven’t seen that before,” Kohli said in a post-match press conference.
Chahal and Kuldeep also have a substantial amount of experience of putting in the hard yards in T20 cricket. They know the art of exploiting the conditions to the fullest and keeping the batsmen under check, but South Africa was always going to a challenge of a different kind. Here, there was not much of turn, but the bounce was always going to help them. And at Cape Town, the pitch only got slower, which allowed the white leather to turn.
Both Kuldeep and Chahal have bowled with some guile in South Africa. They were slower through the air and didn’t shy from tossing the ball up. In saying so, they ensured the ball wasn’t pitched too full so that the batsmen could get to the pitch of the ball. There was some astute bowling from these talented spinners and delivered at a good time.
Both the bowlers have a deadly googly, which they bowl without any discernible change in action. Especially Kuldeep, whose wrong’uns are very difficult to pick. They don’t overuse it and their stock deliveries are again productive. They also read the conditions quickly and tend to adapt early, especially Chahal. With Kuldeep being a chinaman, they make for a deadly combo.
One might argue saying, South Africa were unlucky to have missed out on some key players. But the way Kuldeep and Chahal have dominated the proceedings cannot be overlooked. With AB de Villiers’ return, South Africa will be bolstered and it will also be a true test for the spinners in the fourth ODI against one of the finest batsmen in contemporary cricket.
One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that Chahal and Kuldeep have made the difference in the series so far. “We knew they will pick up wickets. These guys have bowled on flatter batting tracks at home. They have bowled in T20 cricket, when the conditions are very, very difficult, and picked up wickets on a regular basis you know. Here they felt even better because they were getting the bounce on some pitches. Like today, it got really slow at the end so they were getting turn as well. They feel at the top of their game when they have pitches supporting them a little bit. But they are very brave and even on flatter pitches, wrist-spinners will come into play and they have made that difference in the game,” Kohli added.
With 2019 World Cup scheduled to be played in England, Kuldeep and Chahal’s success in South Africa has only strengthened India’s bowling attack. Conditions in England won’t be very spin-friendly and if Kuldeep and Chahal manage to replicate similar magic, India will only find themselves in a comfortable position. As of now, the duo have a year to groom themselves and get ready for the big league, but the signs are promising. With three games to go, Kuldeep and Chahal will be looking forward to spin a series of web around South African batsmen. Will the hosts find a solution? Will they counter-attack? Only time will unveil the mystery.