Who would have imagined that just after the Test series, in which the pacers hogged all the limelight, the ODI leg would bring in such a twist and that the spinners, who had a minimal role to play a few weeks ago, would decide the fate of the matches? But this is what makes cricket so interesting, isn’t it?
Two young spinners have given the South African team a headache that is likely to last throughout the series. If South Africa do not put their act together quickly enough, by the time they would start picking the Indian spin twins, the series would already be gone. This article presents five such reasons why playing both Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will turn out to be a master stroke for India in the six-match ODI series.
The newfound spin twins of India have a lot of tricks up their sleeve. Both of them have deceptive googlies, but it is their variation in pace and flight which makes them lethal. Chahal and Kuldeep are also not afraid of tossing the ball up every now and then to invite the batsmen to play their shots. In the process, they literally scalp their wickets.
The South African squad has a considerable number of inexperienced players. It would be hard for the likes of Aiden Markram, Andile Phehlukwayo and Khaya Zondo- he may make his ODI debut in this series- to pick the Indian wrist spinners. Even the relatively experienced JP Duminy failed to pick a googly from Kuldeep in Durban and lost his wicket as a result.
The primary reason why Ashwin and Jadeja lost their place in the ODI team is that they were not able to pick up enough wickets. Kuldeep and Chahal have a bowling strike rate of 29.2 and 32.07 as opposed to the 50.6 and 67.5 of Ashwin and Jadeja, respectively since the 2015 World Cup. These wickets break the back of the opposition batting line-up. The 5 wickets that the young spinners shared between them in the 1st ODI proved to be the difference between the score of 269 – at which India could restrict the Proteas – and a challenging 320-run total.
Gone are the days when erstwhile South African batsmen like Jacques Kallis or Neil McKenzie used to shuffle towards off-stump while facing the spinners. They would then tread on the back foot and work everything with the turn towards the on-side. There were times when they would even take the off-stump guard.
In the current crop, apart from AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Duminy (to some extent), who use their feet to get to the pitch of the ball, no other Proteas batsman stands out. Most neither commit themselves fully on the front foot nor do they go deep in their crease. This results in them getting caught in the crease, which then allows the spinners to do the trick.
In this day and age, when targets of 300 are considered at par and when fours and sixes every over have become the norm, bowlers are finding it hard to control the run flow. This makes the run rate a very instrumental component of the ODIs. If bowlers can choke the flow of runs, the batsmen tend to lose their wicket in an attempt to step up their strike rate.
If someone tells you that in such a scenario both Chahal and Kuldeep have an economy rate of under five, you are bound to be surprised. While, the leggie has an economy rate of 4.65, the chinaman follows suit with 4.75. Even in the 1st ODI, both spinners gave away just 79 runs in their stipulated 20 overs.
Both Chalal and Kuldeep are wrist spinners and thus capable of extracting spin even from relatively unresponsive pitches. The pitches in South Africa may not be turning square, but they are certainly offering just enough for the spinners to play with.
The main reason behind this is the acute water shortage that South Africa is currently facing. Few areas are suffering from severe droughts and the mishandling of the pitches is only adding to the problem. Some pitches are turning brown due to the lack of moisture while others are breaking down under the sun. This is causing the pitches to offer uneven bounce and a slightly rough surface, which is sufficient for the Indian spinners to unleash their magic.