Left edging out right in wrist spin duel

With the conclusion of the three-match ODI series against the West Indies, India’s experimentation phase seems to have ended, and the focus should now shift towards finalising the core team for the upcoming tournaments.

India will now gear up for the Asia Cup and a crucial three-match ODI series against Australia before the World Cup in October-November. While almost every player got opportunities during the Caribbean ODIs, one constant and notable omission from the playing XI was Yuzvendra Chahal.

Once a prominent name in the limited-over formats, especially in ODIs, the leg-spinner is no more an automatic choice. With the ODI squad expected to remain stable (except perhaps for a game against Nepal in the Asia Cup), the audition phase for players may have come to a close. Unfortunately, it could mean curtains for Chahal’s chances of making it to the Asia Cup and World Cup squads. Though Shardul Thakur backed Chahal despite him not playing a single ODI in the last two series, time is running out for the 33-year-old from Haryana.

“Chahal has been a match-winner for many years. Be it in ODIs or T20Is, he has always contributed with the ball. I don’t think not playing one series will bother him too much. He has been such a match-winner for the Indian team that we trust his ability to win matches whenever he plays. He has proven himself over the years, so we all know what he can do. The rest, only the captain and team management can answer, why someone played or didn’t,” Thakur said after the third ODI against the West Indies.

The highly-regarded ‘Kul-Cha’ spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Chahal was dismantled after England hammered them for 1/160 in 20 overs in the 2019 World Cup. Chahal was decent, as he scalped 12 wickets in eight matches with an economy of 5.97. While Kuldeep was dropped from the squad, Chahal continued to feature in it, but his performance dipped. In 2022, he managed 21 wickets in 14 matches. In 2023, he has picked up only three in two matches.

In contrast, Kuldeep has made a strong comeback. He secured 12 wickets in eight ODIs last year and has been in splendid form in 2023, claiming 22 wickets in 11 matches. Kuldeep’s return bolstered India’s spin attack and as result, Chahal lost his place in the XI. Though they both played in the third ODI against New Zealand in Indore earlier this year — in the absence of Ravindra Jadeja — and ended up sharing five wickets, it was their last game together.

Post the 2019 World Cup, Chahal, in total, has managed 37 wickets in 23 matches with an economy rate of 5.71 and if we compare it to the leading wicket-taker among wrist spinners, the gap is eye-catching. Australia’s Adam Zampa has scalped 66 wickets in 31 matches in the current ODI World Cup cycle. His economy rate? 4.99.

With the likes of Jadeja and Kuldeep almost certain to be part of the XI, and Axar Patel available as a reliable back-up, it appears difficult for India to accommodate Chahal in the 15-member squad for the Asia Cup and World Cup. Moreover, India’s focus on utility players who can contribute with the bat makes Chahal’s limited batting skills a drawback. Unfortunately for him, the team management seems uninterested in testing Chahal’s form in ODIs, indicating that his days in the 50-over format might be numbered.

If Chahal misses the cut, he will leave behind a strong legacy of 121 ODI wickets to his name in 72 matches, including noteworthy performances in the 2019 World Cup.

However, whether he will be considered for the 2024 T20 World Cup remains uncertain, given that he is yet to feature in a single T20 World Cup match in his career. As Indian cricket goes through a transition, Chahal’s chances of making it to both the World Cup squads seem bleak. Only time will tell how his cricketing journey unfolds post-November.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *