Kuldeep & Jadeja — India’s Swiss Army knife in middle-overs- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

LUCKNOW: A question. Who have been the three most economical bowlers, irrespective of type at the World Cup (minimum = 35 overs). Jasprit Bumrah’s coruscating understanding of line and length means his 3.80 at an average of 16.27 isn’t really a surprise. What, though, has worked for India’s bowling unit is the way Ravindra Jadeja (3.97 at 27.14) and Kuldeep Yadav (4.74 at 29.62) have choked the opposition’s hitters, bashers and other assorted batting types through the middle-overs.

The only time one of them was remotely threatened was when Rachin Ravindra and Daryl Mitchell went after the latter at Dharamsala. Even though Kuldeep ended up conceding 73 across his 10 overs, he had recovered in his latter spells after travelling the distance in his first few stanzas. It offered the team management a chance to see whether the left-arm spinner would have a dip in confidence, something that’s happened with him in the past. Instead, he showed why they were right in trusting him to bowl the big overs. Apart from putting a lid on the scoring, he removed Tom Latham and Glenn Phillips in the second phase of the Black Caps innings.

If Kuldeep is India’s primary spinner in terms of picking up wickets, Ravindra Jadeja is the go-to option to deliver a few quiet overs. Between them, they form the perfect Swiss Army knife. Bringing down the run rate? Check. Taking wickets? Check. While teams may be shy in fielding two left-arm spinners in the same XI, India willingly do it because of the different skill-sets they bring to the table.

Coach Rahul Dravid touched upon it ahead of the match against the Kiwis. “It’s nice for us to have both of them in the last three games, a lot of experience, different skills as well, even though both of them are left-arm spinners,” he had said. “They’re obviously different kinds of left-handed bowlers, left-arm spinners. So that gives us variation, gives us different angles that they bowl at.”

The direct consequence of having Kuldeep and Jadeja operate through the middle-overs is teams have been shy to go after them because of their well-documented gifts. Those gifts have also directly contributed to opposition teams stuck in a permanent taking one-step-forward before going four-steps back routine.

When Kuldeep came onto bowl against Australia, they were 54/1 after 12 overs. After Jadeja and he had done the damage (R Ashwin had also played his part in this game), they were 140/6 in 36 overs. The same thing played out against Pakistan, too. Kuldeep had shattered the spine with the wickets of Saud Shakeel and Iftikhar Ahmed in the 33rd over. Because batters are constantly second-guessing themselves, they aren’t sure of how to approach this phase.

Because these two have retained a control over the run rate, it has also allowed skipper Rohit Sharma to a) hold back Jasprit Bumrah, b) put their trust in five frontline bowlers as opposed to picking an all-rounder after Hardik Pandya’s injury (Suryakumar Yadav will line up at No. 6 on Sunday as well).

It’s allowed the pacers to come and pick off the carcass like hungry vultures. When Bumrah was brought back at the death against Australia, they were 140/7 after 40 overs. They had already lost five wickets and were under pressure when he was given the ball in the 34th over against Pakistan. Bangladesh had lost half their side for less than 200 in the 43rd over when Bumrah had four more overs.     

All of it has resulted in the hosts chasing under-par scores. Will that pattern continue on Sunday?

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