The X-factors, which Kohli spoke of, were his wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. While the former has not been a big hit so far, Kuldeep has bamboozled the English batsmen
Ahead of India’s departure to the United Kingdom, captain Virat Kohli had emphasised on the team’s two X-factors who would make life difficult for the England batsmen.
The X-factors, which Kohli spoke of, were his wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. While the former has not been a big hit so far, Kuldeep has bamboozled the English batsmen.
On Thursday, he ripped the hosts’ batting line-up with his ODI career-best figures of 6/25. Thanks to his outstanding efforts with the ball, India romped home at Trentbridge, Nottingham by eight wickets to lead the three-match ODI series 1-0.
"As I said, the pitches (in the UK) are similar to what we get all over the world. In shorter formats (the pitches are) batting-friendly. What has been the difference for us are two (Chahal and Yadav) X-factors in the middle overs," Kohli said at the pre-departure press conference in New Delhi on 22 June.
Kohli explained further, "We have been actually able to create flat wickets into exciting wicket-taking wickets because of the variety we have in the attack. So from that point of view, I am very excited. Again these guys (Chahal and Yadav) are bowling in conditions that might not assist them so much, but it is their skill in the wrist which did the job for them in South Africa.
"I am sure teams are thinking about that. I know for a fact that with our bowlers in the middle overs, in a full 50-over game, you cannot go that hard for 20 overs from two bowlers in a row. You know that they can get you out in any particular over when they bowl. That is where the mindset changes and that is what makes us excited about the attack we have."
The 23-year-old Kuldeep has delivered, true to his captain’s words. He started off the England tour with 5/24 in the first T20I in Manchester. And now a six-wicket haul in the first ODI.
Kuldeep belongs to a rare breed of spinners – left-arm Chinaman. Not many batsmen have been able to decode the mystery behind his bowling.
With the Uttar Pradesh tweaker high on confidence, there is more trouble waiting for England batsmen.
Kuldeep will be keen to replicate his limited-overs success in the Test format too. After just two matches in the longer version, Kuldeep has been made to wait for his chance, with Ravindra Jadeja taking up the spin duties in red-ball cricket with Ravichandran Ashwin.
But things could change for Kuldeep next month. He has it in him to be an all-format bowler.
There have already been calls from fans, experts and former cricketers to include Kuldeep in the Test squad, which is likely to be out this weekend.
In India’s previous overseas Test trip, to South Africa, he was ignored. However, things have changed now.
The youngster has already got a psychological advantage over the English batsmen in the shorter formats and he will be handy on English pitches which are likely to be drier with the country facing a heatwave.
It is a five-Test series starting on 1 August and there is no harm in picking the extra spinner in the squad with Kuldeep sharing the spin duties with Ashwin and Jadeja.
When asked about his Test chances, Kuldeep said he was hoping to be recalled.
“Talking about Test cricket, I am hoping for the call and let us see what happens in a couple of days when they announce the team,” Kuldeep said after his Man of the Match performance in Nottingham on Thursday.
It was the then head coach Anil Kumble, who was instrumental in handing Kuldeep the Test debut, against Australia in March 2017 in Dharamsala. After that he featured in only one more Test, in Sri Lanka in August 2017.
Kohli too hinted at Kuldeep for Tests. "Anything is possible with the selections for Tests and there might be a few surprises. Kuldeep is making a strong case for himself and so is Chahal," Kohli said after the first ODI against England.
On current form and with the backing of his skipper, Kuldeep should be a certainty in the Test squad.
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Last Updated 13, Jul 2018, 6:56 PM