“New Zealand’s small ground become a problem when they face a power-hitting batting side like England. However, Sodhi in the previous series also displayed that he could control the overflow of runs”.
Until a couple of years ago, mysterious spinner Sunil Narine put carrom ball and probably even the doosra on the big picture in cricket, especially in the limited-overs format. But, it was the leggies who had baffled the batsmen, well before the Narines, Ravichandran Ashwins and Ravindra Jadejas entered the same world. Significantly in the limited-overs format, which these days has become batting friendly and the added two new balls in the ODIs only makes life difficult for the finger spinners. In such cases, teams value their wrist spinners more. India and England are two of the strongest ODI sides of the current lot and their wrist spinners have a huge role to play there – Adil Rashid for England and the duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal for India.
The art of wrist spin was re-defined by the Indian pair during India’s recently concluded six-match ODI series against South Africa. The series was hosted by the latter and despite having the advantage of the home conditions, the Proteas were left miserable by the young pair. Chahal and Kuldeep picked 33 wickets in six ODIs as India marched to a historic maiden bilateral series win on the South African soil. Considering how the game of cricket has become more of a batsmen’s game, teams with wrist spinners who could negate the opposition’s batting strength will always be in a good position in any given series.
Apart from India and England, there are a few more countries that have begun to concentrate on the wrist spin factor. Australia swapped from left-arm orthodox Xavier Doherty to wrist spinner Adam Zampa, West Indies have Samuel Badree and Afghanistan have the young Rashid Khan, who not only has made a name for himself on the domestic level but also on the international circuit. New Zealand gave their wrist spinner Todd Astle his debut two years back and in no time, he has established himself well in the team. In the vogue of wrist spin, Mitchell Santner has kept his finger spin alive and the combination of Santner and Astle has delivered for the Kiwis in the recent times.
However, Santner’s ginger knee and Astle’s steady rehabilitation have reopened ODI doors for New Zealand’s wrist spinner Ish Sodhi. Keeping in mind the results produced by the wrist spinners in the white ball game across the globe and Sodhi’s consistent performances in the shortest format, New Zealand selectors could not ignore him for the upcoming ODI series against England. The first ODI is set to begin on Sunday at Hamilton’s Seddon Park, Sodhi’s regular provincial ground.
If Sodhi is given a place in the XI, he will certainly grab the opportunity on Sunday. No gets a second chance and Sodhi will be aware of that. The Ludhiana-born first played international cricket for the BlackCaps in 2013 when as a 20-year-old, he was given his Test cap after just one full season of First-Class cricket. Clearly, lack of experience added to his misery and he somehow did not manage to create the same impact as the other spinners did – mostly because he could not hit the right lines and lengths consistently. There was talent but a lot of grooming was required. His place in the XI became on and off as years passed since his debut in 2013.
However, in the last one and a half years or so, Sodhi has taken a major leap in the shortest format. He played a vital role in Nottinghamshire’s maiden T20 Blast title before he climbed the No. 1 ranked for the very first time in his career last month. Just a few weeks ago, his New Zealand teammate Santner replaced him as the new No. 1 and Sodhi at present is ranked No. 3 T20I bowler. In 2018, from 10 matches he has played, he picked nine wickets at an economy-rate of 8.25. His eye-catching series was the recently concluded Tri-Series that also involved Australia and England. Out of the five matches he played there, only in a match he proved to be expensive, otherwise, he had managed to put brakes on the run flow from his end and also clinched five wickets.
On wet conditions, wrist spinners tend to get expensive, the India-South Africa series saw that. The two matches which South Africa have won so far in the series (ODI/T20I) both were rain-affected which negated the effect of the wrist spinners allowing the Proteas batsmen to bat freely. However, in the rain-hit Tri-Series final between New Zealand and Australia, Sodhi’s control either side of the initial rain interruption was impressive and that led to Australian top order struggle to read his variety of deliveries.
The last time Sodhi played an ODI was in May, 2017. In his last 10 ODIs, there was never an instance when he went wicket-less. However, the economy was an issue but it is time for him to rectify that as well.
New Zealand’s small ground become a problem when they face a power-hitting batting side like England. However, Sodhi in the previous series also displayed that he could control the overflow of runs. The hosts white-washed Pakistan 5-0 last month and after such a result, the team is not tweaked a lot. Sodhi might get lucky because Astle still is not sure that could give Sodhi a comeback. Hamilton being a slow track, New Zealand mostly will go with two spinners and Sodhi would hope to be one of those.