CHENNAI: It was a year back after a visit to England that India changed something which has since become fundamental to their limited-over exploits.
Despite having two of the top-ranked Test bowlers in R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, they felt finger spin was no longer winning matches in white ball cricket. So in came Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
As India prepare to take on England, there are no major differences between the sides. Yet, in a way this is a big test for Indian bowlers, who have carved out a reputation of being one of the best units in recent times.
After their exploits at home against Australia and New Zealand, the wrist-spinners shone again in South Africa, albeit against an injury-plagued side. But England won’t offer as much bounce and bite as South Africa.
Despite the Indian duo weaving their magic, if there is one side that has seldom struggled against this variety, it is England. They have scored at an average of nearly 59 off 10 overs against wrist-spinners, but rarely have they faced two in tandem. But, if there is a side that can self-destruct against spin, that is also England.
“Irrespective of how the wicket behaves, they (Chahal and Kuldeep) will get turn. This will be their biggest challenge, but considering how they have performed in the last year or so, they will be backing themselves. They have never shied away from attacking and against a side that likes to dominate, it can work in their favour,” felt former India pacer and bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad.
This will be new territory for these two, sans Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar — who is unlikely to feature in the first ODI on Thursday. These two used to make the job easier for Chahal and Kuldeep by taking wickets at the top. Without them, it would be a daunting task for Indian bowlers to switch between attack and defence.
With Bumrah out, India are already handicapped in the death overs, a period where England are so dominant. There is Umesh Yadav and Siddarth Kaul, but without the top two, India have an uphill task against a side that has posted 29 totals in excess of 300 since after the 2015 World Cup.
Leaving aside Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar, the rest of the pacers have not been tested. Umesh’s last ODI was in September 2017, while Kaul is yet to get an ODI cap. What might encourage India is both have been regulars in the IPL, where pitches were more or less similar to what they will encounter in England. “The Indian attack is in a phase where anybody can turn up and perform. They are not dependent on one pacer. Yes, they will miss Bumrah, but the likes of Kaul, Umesh have played enough matches this season and know how to adapt. They have showed they can adjust to conditions. They don’t take the field without doing their homework,” said Prasad.
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