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The Indian white-ball spin problem no one is talking about

by Rohit Sankar 3 minute read

India’s spinners have been taken for runs in T20Is of late and heading into the T20 World Cup, there’s uncertainty over who their frontline spinner is, writes Rohit Sankar.

The numbers tell the tale. Since the start of 2020 in T20Is, India’s spinners have a combined economy rate of 8.21 and a strike-rate of 26.4, both numbers the worst in the world among all 16 teams heading into the T20 World Cup later this year.

Given India have historically built their success on their slow bowlers, the trend is worrying. The two wrist-spinners around whom they had built their spin attack have struggled. Kuldeep Yadav has fallen from his peak, while Yuzvendra Chahal has conceded runs at an economy rate of 9.27, the worst in the world of any spinner to bowl more than 20 overs since the start of 2020.

Ravindra Jadeja is likely to be one of the two or three spinners in India’s T20 World Cup side thanks to his batting, and his bowling numbers have significantly improved in T20s in the last year or so. That said, India will still need a wicket-taking twirler, and at the moment, they seem to be hunting for their best option.

It’s not that there’s no depth or that there’s a problem with the pipeline of talent coming through. With a plethora of spinners proving their worth in the IPL, it’s likely only a matter of time before India find their next long-term limited-overs spinner. Whether they do so in time, with the T20 World Cup approaching and only three T20Is against Sri Lanka scheduled before then, is another matter.

Who has impressed in the IPL?

Sundar is India’s most economical spinner in the IPL since the start of the 2020 season, but he has only picked up 11 wickets. Axar Patel and Ravi Bishnoi come in next, but neither appear to be in India’s T20 World Cup plans currently.

Chahar and Chahal have picked up 26 and 25 wickets respectively, the best after Rashid Khan and their economy rates are in the acceptable range of 7.5-8 runs per over. However, at the international level since 2020 – Chahar in just two appearances – the two have gone at over nine runs per over.

Notably, Chahar, Jadeja and Shreyas Gopal are on the higher side of seven or early eight in terms of economy since IPL 2020. Krishnappa Gowtham, who has made it to the India side for the Sri Lanka series, has an economy rate over 10.

Chakravarthy as a bolter?

Varun Chakravarthy was massively impressive in IPL 2020 and the first half of IPL 2021, and it’s a shame India couldn’t get a longer glimpse at him. That his fitness wasn’t up to the mark meant that India dropped him, after initially naming him in the squad, for the limited-overs tour of Australia.

What Chakravarthy brings to the table is a mystery element that India are sorely lacking in the shorter formats. Instead, the quicks are often left to take corrective measures to pull the run rate back.

Chakravarthy is a rare bowler who can do both. He has gone at an economy rate of just 7.18 since the 2020 IPL and has also picked 24 wickets, bamboozling the likes of AB de Villiers, David Warner and Jos Buttler with his variations.

Chakravarthy might be inexperienced, but in a major tournament, a new mystery spinner who is still being worked out can be a massive advantage and he might just be India’s answer to the white-ball spin problem, even if it’s only for the T20 World Cup.

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