India coach Ravi Shastri believes that Kuldeep Yadav’s performance in Australia makes him the primary overseas spinner for the team, raising doubts over the future of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
In an interview on the Cricubzz website, Shastri insisted that the wrist spin could be India’s trump card especially in overseas Test cricket and that makes Yadav all the more important.
“Already! He plays overseas Test cricket and he gets five wickets, so he becomes our primary overseas spinner. Going ahead, if we have to play one spinner, he is the one we will pick. There is a time for everyone [referring to Ashwin’s poor fitness record in 2018]. But now Kuldeep is our frontline number one overseas spinner,” Shastri was quoted as saying.
Yadav came into the XI in the fourth and final Test in Sydney as Ashwin could not recover completely from his injury during the first Test and ended up claiming five wickets in the first innings. The performance has already sent the social media on overdrive as they wondered if the left-arm wrist spinner would soon upstage Ashwin and Jadeja.
With Shastri confirming that the team would be banking on wrist spin going forward, it seems Ashwin and Jadeja may have to fight for the second spinners spot even in home Tests.
On the batting front, Shastri explained the reasons behind dropping Cheteshwar Pujara in the first Test against England and the reasons behind Test vice captain Ajinkya Rahane’s failure to convert good starts.
The 56-year-old insisted that it was the team management’s decision to not play Pujara in Birmingham and allow him time to work on the areas that he was struggling has helped the Saurashtra batsman make a strong comeback and dominate the bowlers in Australia.
“When we saw him at [nets in] Birmingham, there was a problem, which we told him to address. We gave him a week to address it. It would have been very easy for me to play him in that Test match after having told him that problem. But as a coach, I take the responsibility, and I said, rather than play, you work on it and address that problem. He did and the rest is history,” said Shastri, adding that Pujara’s problem was his posture when he stood to face the ball.
“We had to factor in if we wanted to take the risk of that first Test or get him right for the next 7-8 Tests. Or, take that chance of playing in all 8 Tests and he doesn’t have enough time to sort that,” he added.
On Rahane, Shastri felt that the 30-year-old should benefit from the 6-7 months of no Test cricket as it would help the middle order batsman refresh and regroup mentally.
“He flatters to deceive. But he knows deep down that he is a good enough player to convert those starts into hundreds. Sometimes when he is at the crease, he makes batting look ridiculously easy. The easiest thing in the world, the way he strokes the ball, he times it so well and he was brilliant getting 70s, 80s even in Australia. Then out of the blue, he will play something [rash] and get out which could be mental fatigue.
“I think this is a good time for him, 6-7 months of no Test cricket. Sometimes when you are caught in the routine of playing day in and day out, you get mentally tired. There’s a time when you refuse to think or accept that there is a genuine fault. So this break will help him iron out that and come back again,” Shastri added.
‘Kohli is as dominant as Viv Richards’
The former India international also praised skipper Virat Kohli for not letting the pressure of captaincy affect his batting and even compared him with West Indies great Viv Richards and former Pakistan skipper and now Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“To carry that kind of pressure of captaincy and clean up all the individual ICC awards as well is phenomenal. We have had great players who struggled to handle pressure when they were captain. Then we had some captains who didn’t know what number to bat at - when they are good enough to go at number three, but they chose to go at six or seven.
“But here is a guy who is as dominant as Sir Vivian Richards. The closest I have seen to the great man. Virat is in your face, he wants to dominate and has a work ethic like no one else. Whether it comes to discipline, training, sacrifice or self-denial, it is unbelievable.
“I think India is lucky to have a leader of that sort. He reminds me of Imran Khan in many ways — in the way he sets the example and sets the standards, and goes about defining it in his own way and leading from the front,” Shastri said.
You can read the full interview on Cricbuzz here.