Experts' comments: Letting the cubs hunt!

In the last few months, Indian cricket seems to have taken the risk of resting the senior pros and testing out the young spinners. The move has worked so far. But then, with a packed international fixture lined up, India’s young spin brigade still has miles to go, loads to achieve!

Erapalli Prasanna, Dilip Doshi (below) and Sunil Joshi (bottom), prominent former spinners, are of the opinion that the real challenge for Indian spinners, especially the second string, is overseas.   -  K. GOPINATHAN, THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY & V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

Yuzvendra Chahal couldn’t help smiling when an inquisitive scribe asked him whether there was any pressure on him and Kuldeep Yadav while bowling to the opponents.

It was a few minutes after India had defeated Australia in the first ODI at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in the third week of September.

With him and Kuldeep striking for the side, India beat the Aussies that evening. And Chahal’s reply was quite crisp: “We go by the situation of the wicket and since both of us are attacking, we go for wickets. Depending on the match situation, we look at things.”

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As the youngster spoke, he exuded confidence. By his smart answers it was evident that he was not feeling the pressure despite India taking the field without its two seasoned spinners — Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

Instead, the two — Kuldeep and Chahal — raised the bar in every game, making all heads turn. And for the last few months, this has been the story for India spinners. With the national selectors preferring to leave out Ashwin and Jadeja, the onus has been on Kuldeep, Chahal and Axar Patel. And they have made it a point to lap up every opportunity.

Former India cricketer and spin great Erapalli Prasanna sees this as a great sign for Indian cricket. While he believes that Ashwin is still India’s best spinner in the business, the 78-year-old makes it clear that the rise of young spinners is certainly a good thing. “When they were picked for the first three games (against Australia), there were a lot of speculations (whether they would be able to step up). I also debated whether the youngsters should be tried after the important Australia series, or should there be at least one senior along with them. They proved me wrong. They have performed extremely well against a reputed team. So, the class of Indian spinners is quite commendable,” Prasanna tells Sportstar.

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Prasanna adds that both Kuldeep and Chahal will get sharper once Ashwin returns to the side. “Being the senior, Ashwin will take a lot of responsibility and take the pressure off the two. They can play freely then,” Prasanna says.

Knowing Indian cricket inside out, the veteran, however, is not too confident about Axar’s prospects in the longer run. “I don’t consider Axar Patel as a brilliant spinner. He is just okay. I don’t look at him as a strike bowler, or someone who can demolish the opponent side,” is how the former cricketer feels about the Gujarat spinner.

One of India’s spin exponents, Dilip Doshi, too admits that the Indian tweakers would be put to the real test in overseas conditions. “I always judge a bowler on how he performs on good pitches. At home, India is a strong force. The pitches help our spinners excessively, that’s not a wrong thing as every country lays pitches as per its convenience. The greatness of the top players is that they are successful in every condition and any condition. I am yet to see our mainline spinners bowl effectively outside India,” Doshi, who played for India in 33 Tests and 15 ODIs, says.

The former cricketer, who is now based in Mumbai, however, feels that the youngsters do have the capability to do well in foreign conditions. “I would say, they are capable of doing well, but as of now, they are unable to adjust to the conditions in Australia and England. Now even with back-hand spinners like Chahal or Kuldeep around, we are judging them on Indian pitches and based on their performances in ODIs,” he says, quickly adding, “Don’t judge a spinner just by his form in T20 and ODI. It can surely give you an indication, but I also to judge them on how consistent they are in domestic cricket,” Doshi says.

Drawing reference to yesteryear spinners, Doshi feels that the classical bowlers had actions, which were suited for a long-term game. “These days most of the actions of the youngsters are conducive to the shorter version. The open chest bowling or other forms have come up in the last 20 years, and that’s why I find batsmen in Test cricket unable to read the spinning ball. On good pitches, it is okay. But when the ball starts turning, it gets tough. Even Australians have had issues with back-hand spinners, because all this while they have only faced leg-spin,” he says.

But then, he also makes it a point that Indian spinners need to step up on different surfaces. “The true measure would be how they perform outside India. I am not saying they won’t be successful, but they need to find a way,” Doshi, who has 114 Test wickets in his kitty, points out.

 

While he too thinks on similar lines, former India spinner Sunil Joshi, who is at present the spin consultant with Bangladesh, is excited with the emergence of so many young spinners. “It is a great thing to have bench strength. Kuldeep has brought confidence along with his skills. Chahal is consistent in the shorter format,” Joshi says from Bloemfontein.

The former cricketer, who has played 15 Tests and 69 ODIs, is quite impressed by the way Kuldeep and Chahal have not bowed under pressure. “That’s the best part. They are not scared to throw the ball in the air. That’s where the success is. With Kuldeep, Chahar and Axar joining hands with Jadeja and Ashwin, Virat (Kohli) will be happy with five spinners,” Joshi says.

But then, he also has a word of caution for the young guns.

“Hard work is definitely paying off, but in the end, it is important to leave a mark in overseas conditions,” Joshi points out, making it clear that it would be important for the young spinners to deliver the goods in Australia or South Africa. “If you can fight back despite being pushed to the wall, that’s really a good thing. For the youngsters, it would be necessary to hold their nerve in the unknown conditions of South Africa,” Joshi, who is presently in Protea land with the Bangladesh team, adds.

In the last few months, Indian cricket seems to have taken the risk of resting the senior pros and testing out the young spinners. The move has worked so far. But then, with a packed international fixture lined up, India’s young spin brigade still has miles to go, loads to achieve!