2. Have the spinners lost their mojo?
When the Indian team started investing in the wrist-spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav post their loss to Pakistan in the 2017 Champions Trophy final, it seemed like a risky venture since it would’ve resulted in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja—two automatic selections in the Indian XI up to that point—losing their permanent spots in the ODI team to the two fairly inexperienced wrist-spinners.
However, the move paid off perfectly well for the team management with both Chahal and Kuldeep developing into potent match winners for India in the shorter formats.
Be it keeping things tight in the middle overs by stemming the flow of runs, or bamboozling the non-subcontinental players, who are generally not adept at picking spinners by watching the hand, with their bagful of tricks, the pair has proven its indispensability series after series in recent times.
The 2019 World Cup though hasn’t been a rewarding tournament for spinners in general, and it is no surprise therefore that India’s spin twins have had a relatively quiet tournament.
None of the spinners from the ten participating teams feature among the top fifteen wickets takers of the tournament, and while the pacers merrily sit atop each and every chart for bowlers, spinners, in general, have been left to ruminate on the loss of their mojo and fear the possibility of getting axed.
Compared to the pacers who have picked up a total of 464 wickets in the tournament so far, the spinners have taken just 129 scalps. Even the differences in the averages and the strike-rates have been massive. While pace accounts for an average of 30.23 and a strike-rate of 32.3, those of spin read 51.45 and 57 respectively.
This stark contrast between pacers and spinners is also reflected in the performances of the Indian bowlers. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami have picked up a total of 31 wickets between them prior to the knockouts, whereas Kuldeep and Chahal have managed together 17 wickets at an average of 45.30.
In fact, one of the primary reasons why India suffered a 31-run defeat to England in Birmingham in the group stage was because the two spinners ended up conceding 160 runs off their twenty overs.
Given the kind of support the two spinners enjoy from the team management, it is unlikely that India would field three specialist seamers in the knockouts.
Both Kuldeep and Chahal may be persisted with, or one of them could be seen making way for left-arm orthodox spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who returned with tidy figures of 1/40 against Sri Lanka.