India Needs To Realise The Might Of Chahal-Kuldeep’s One-Two Punch

January 18, 2019

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Cricket is all about partnerships. Whether it is batting, bowling or fielding, a group of individuals need to be in sync with each other in order to achieve collective success.

Similarly, the Indian cricket team is blessed to have two formidable partnerships, or rather one-two punches, that see them through in almost every match. One is the batting pair of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, and another is the relentless pace bowling pair of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Their contributions have been instrumental for India in their limited overs matches so far and will continue to be so when they begin their quest for their third Cricket World Cup title in England this year. However, they have been overlooking one pair of late who could turn out to be their third devastating one-two punch.

They are none other than the spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. While the former played in the first two ODIs against Australia, the latter was overlooked for those matches. Kuldeep did a good job in the first match as he picked up two wickets and bowled an economical spell, but he returned without any success in the second ODI and was taken on in his last two overs too.

Looking at his ineffectiveness, Kohli chose to drop him for the series-deciding third ODI and opted to go for Yuzvendra Chahal instead. And Chahal repaid the faith invested by his skipper by registering career-best bowling figures of 6-42. He was brilliant during his spell as he tossed the ball up to the batsmen and extracted a good amount of turn from the pitch. He created all sorts of trouble for the Australian batsmen as they failed to deal with his deliveries.

However, his scintillating performance in this match doesn’t mean that he is better than Kuldeep or he should be picked in the XI ahead of Kuldeep going forward. The team management has to realize that these two bowlers are most lethal when they hunt in pairs.

Separating them and picking one in the XI ahead of the other will only hurt their and the team’s chances in the match. Even statistics will suggest so.

Kuldeep and Chahal have played together in 23 matches picking up 87 wickets at an overall average of 22.69, economy of 4.88 and strike-rate of 27.87. These are staggering bowling figures for a spin bowling pair in this modern day version of limited overs cricket. They pick up wickets in heaps and are economical at the same time too.

Dissecting their bowling numbers in the matches they have played together might make it look like Kuldeep has done better than the Haryana spinner. However, it also needs to be remembered that Chahal often plays the holding role when Kuldeep attacks from one end and that is why his numbers seem to be slightly behind that of Kuldeep:

Wickets: 51   Avg: 19.80  Econ: 4.97    S/R: 23.8

Wickets: 36  Avg: 26.77   Econ: 4.79     S/R: 33.5

However, analyzing their statistics in matches played without each other suggests that Kuldeep thrives as a bowler in Chahal’s presence. The following numbers will reveal so:

Matches:12  W: 18  Avg: 25.27   Econ: 4.50 S/R: 33.66

Matches: 12  W: 26  Avg:19.57  Econ: 4.62  S/R: 25.38

So, in Chahal’s absence Kuldeep’s average takes a hit and goes to 25.27 from 19.80. His strike rate also inflates to 33.66 as compared to 23.8 in his presence. But his economy of 4.50 is better in Chahal’s absence and it indicates that teams tend to play Kuldeep defensively identifying him as India’s only wicket-taking threat.

They cannot afford to play Kuldeep defensively in Chahal’s presence as the attack is on from both bowlers. If they are playing Chahal with a defensive approach then that forces them to attack Kuldeep, which in term fetches the chinaman most of the wickets.

Interestingly, Kuldeep’s absence tends to have a positive effect on  Chahal’s numbers. The reason behind that being his license to go on the offensive. India opted to play with the spin bowling options of Kedar Jadhav and Ravindra Jadeja alongside Chahal in Friday’s encounter against Australia. Jadhav and Jadeja’s role was to hold one end with their bowling while Chahal attacks from the other.

But the duo combined to bowl 15 overs for 88 runs at an expensive rate of 5.86. Moreover, they didn’t succeed in picking up any wickets too. If it wasn’t for Chahal’s fabulous bowling spell, India could have well been looking at much more than 230 runs to chase.

So, this is where Kuldeep’s role becomes important in the XI. India could have easily dropped Jadeja and opted to play Kuldeep instead of him. When Kuldeep and Chahal operate in tandem, the batsmen have no option other than looking to attack them. 20 overs of play is too much to give away to the opposition for any team.

Such are the skills of both of them that they are hard to get away. There are high chances of a batsman getting dismissed when he goes on the offensive against them. Even though Chahal’s numbers are not as good in Kuldeep’s presence as it is in Kuldeep’s absence, it is the collective success that the team should look at. Even though Chahal takes wickets at a slower rate in Kuldeep’s presence, the thing that matters is that wickets keep coming from both ends. 87 wickets in 23 matches together is no joke at all.

In other words, the duo give the Indian team the same dual edge in the spin department as Kohli-Rohit and Bumrah-Bhuvneshwar give in batting and pace bowling departments respectively. If India want to stake their claim on their third World Cup title, they should seriously consider playing the duo together in each and every match. Irrespective of conditions.

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Author: Prasenjit Dey

Prasenjit Dey is a freelance cricket journalist based out of Kolkata, India. Cricket runs through his veins and writing has always been his passion. He is now a part of both worlds, trying to make a difference by writing on the nitty-gritties of the game.

Twitter @CricPrasen

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