What effect will India's erratic batting have on the spin-bowling combination?

What effect will India's erratic batting have on the spin-bowling combination?

What effect will India's erratic batting have on the spin-bowling combination?



It is a four-letter term that begins with the letter "S," according to Rahul Dravid, and it is thundering out of the tunnel with its headlights flashing bright. Spin is once again the main topic of discussion as India prepares to host Australia for another Test match at home in what will be their final and most important match of this World Test Championship cycle. How early in the game and by how much will the pitches offer a turn? How have the guests been preparing? Is there a possibility of a backfire a la Pune?

Much of it is speculation. Then there is the issue of who will actually hold stage when the match starts in Nagpur in a couple of days. And it is apparent that India has other possibilities. One of India's best players of this generation, Ravichandran Ashwin, is a lock. As is top-ranked all-rounder in Test cricket Ravindra Jadeja, who has just recently made a full recovery from a serious knee injury. Axar Patel or Kuldeep Yadav: Which should India choose as their third spinner, assuming the pitch allows them the luxury of having one?

Similar choices had to be made for the current Test in Mirpur, and Dravid and the leadership team chose Axar even though Kuldeep had made his comeback in just the previous Test at Chattogram with a career-best 5 for 40. It was a decision made on the basis of logic rather than feeling. When a bowler has a sub-continental record like Axar's—47 wickets from 8 Tests at a simply absurd average of 14.29, including five five-fors—difficult it's to even find fault.

But Rohit Sharma and Dravid will need to revisit that discussion in Nagpur, the location of the very next Test match. because a few fresh factors have been added to the mix. Not the least of which is Jadeja's return; based on his bowling description, he resembles Axar. The opposition itself is a further issue. If Matt Renshaw plays, Australia's top seven are predicted to include at least four and possibly even five left-handers.

Kuldeep has faced Australia in two of his eight Test matches, and in both Dharamsala and Sydney, he made an impact on the game by taking nine wickets at a strike rate of 21.11. His 13 wickets came at an average of 19.38 and a strike rate of 31, compared to Axar's 12 wickets at 23.00 and a strike rate of 49.2. He also has a little better record against left-handers. In terms of variation, adding a left-hand legspinner completes India's spin attack.

Kuldeep would have had a better chance of being the third spinner, behind Ashwin and Jadeja, if this Nagpur Test had been played between 2016 and 2019, at the height of the Virat Kohli-Anil Kumble or Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri eras. India in transition in 2023 wants assurances about its batting. Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, their top two Test batsmen, are 34 and 35 years old, respectively, and have averaged 23.85 and 34.61 runs per test since the start of the subcontinent era in 2021. While KL Rahul, the captain's deputy, had an average of 14.25 in the two Tests he played against Bangladesh, and Jadeja, as excellent as he is in all disciplines, is bound to be, captain Rohit Sharma, 35, has missed eight of India's previous ten Test matches.


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