The Indian spinners would pose a threat for England…….
India are all set to lock horns with England in the ODI series with the coveted World Cup being just a few months away. The fact that both the sides are two red-hot favourites for the World Cup makes this series crucial. It will provide a clear picture of where both the teams stand and which areas will require improvement. While India are a well-oiled and perfectly balanced side, England, on the other hand, wreaked havoc against Australia and gave a testament to their supremacy and dominance in this format.
England whitewashed Australia in a five-match ODI series and are brimming with confidence, but they got a glimpse of what’s in the store for them in the recently concluded T20I series. India won the three-match series convincingly by 2-1 and have adjusted to the conditions quite effectively. Although it would be too early to say that India are favourites for the ODI series as well, but the signs are promising.
Prior to the start of the England tour, the talk of the town was mainly about the Indian wrist-spinners – Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. They have won games single-handedly since their introduction in the Indian side and have turned out to be effective in conditions that did not have enough assistance for the spinners.
In the recently concluded T20I series, Kuldeep left English batsmen bewildered in the series opener, but England played him out cautiously in the second game, whereas Chahal was economical on most of the occasion. But ODI will be a different ball game altogether. One thing is for sure, Indian wrist-spinners have reawakened England’s weaknesses against spin bowling and the ODI series will be an ideal platform for them to further exploit it.
Chahal and Kuldeep have formed a formidable bowling pair and inspire confidence as a unit. They hunt in a pair, and there is hardly any escape when these two are putting in the hard yards simultaneously. They have earned the team management’s, captain Virat Kohli’s faith and delivered consistently under the pump. It was last year’s ICC Champions Trophy that triggered wrist-spinners inclusion in the Indian side. Finger-spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were taken for runs, which in a way compelled India to ponder newer options.
Chahal and Kuldeep had been knocking the door for a while and India invested in their abilities, which is now reaping fruitful dividends. Kuldeep’s rise has been irresistible; hailed as a mystery spinner, his art is yet to be decoded and looks like the biggest threat for England in the series. His stock deliveries are on right on the money and deliver a deadly googly without any discernible change in action to keep the batsmen on their toes.
Kuldeep was instrumental behind India’s win over South Africa earlier this year, picking 17 wickets at 4.62 in the ODI series. South Africa looked bereft of oomph against his wily spin and didn’t even manage to put up a fight on most of the occasion. Chahal, on the other hand, relies on his accuracy and variation. Kohli has shown immense faith in his abilities and thrown the ball to him quite often during the power-play.
Chahal was equally effective in South Africa, picking 16 wickets at 5.02. Both the spinners have picked wickets on unresponsive surfaces and displayed the art of wrist-spin quite effectively. They have squeezed the runs in the middle-overs and forced the batsmen to change their mindset. Virat Kohli has hailed the pair as the ‘x-factor’ in the side.
Before leaving for England Kohli was quoted in a report from Hindustan Times saying, “What has been the difference for us is the two X-factors in the middle overs. We have definitely been able to turn flat wickets into wicket-taking pitches because of the variety we have in the attack.. I’m sure with our bowlers (spinners) in the middle-overs when it is a full 50-overs game, you can’t go that hard for 20 overs from two bowlers in a row when you know they can get you out in any particular over. That is where the mindset changes.”
England’s have a relatively weaker bowling attack, in fact, they bank a lot on their batting to bail them out. They have a striking line-up and the likes of Jos Buttler, Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root and Ben Stokes render batting a joy to behold. They have destroyed best of the bowling attacks in the recent times with some style and this series will be a litmus test for them.
Chahal and Kuldeep will indubitably test England’s Achilles heels’ and it will be interesting to see what strategy England come out with in order to tackle the spin threat. The T20 series gave an idea, but the ODIs will give a broader picture. Will English batsmen prevail or will Indian wrist-spinners make a mockery of their batting? Only time will unveil the mystery.