With another ICC event on the horizon, leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal has once again fallen out of favour with the Indian team selectors. The 33-year-old was a big name missing from the Asia Cup squad announced on Monday but India skipper Rohit Sharma has left the door slightly ajar for Chahal for the subsequent ODI World Cup at home in October-November.
The wily operator, who was once India`s go to bowler in the middle overs, finds himself in familiar territory as another World Cup beckons. Chahal was controversially excluded from the 2021 T20 World Cup before returning for the 2022 edition in Australia, where he did not get a game as finger spinners were preferred in the playing eleven. Kuldeep Yadav, one half of the celebrated `Kul-Cha` duo has left the other half behind in the pecking order. Kuldeep is the sole wrist-spinner in the 17-member squad for Asia Cup with the think-tank going for the better batter in Axar Patel alongside Ravindra Jadeja.
India seem to be banking heavily on the fast bowlers to do the job in the World Cup but in the spin department, can Kuldeep, Axar and Jadeja provide the much needed wickets in the middle overs? Will not picking Chahal hurt India at the Asia Cup, like it did in T20 format when Varun Chakaravarthy, on basis of one season of IPL, was picked ahead of him in what turned out to be a forgettable campaign for the mystery spinner as well as the team.
If the chosen combination doesn`t work in the continental event, India will be forced to rethink their options ahead of the 50-over showpiece event at home. Besides not having a right-arm wrist-spin option, there is no off-break bowler in the squad either. “We thought about an off-spinner as well, Ashwin and Washy (Washington Sundar), but right now you see Chahal had to miss out because we could only pick 17 players,” said Rohit after the squad announcement.
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“The only way we could have picked him was if one of the seamers was missing. We can`t do that because seamers are going to play a big role in the next two months. A few of them are coming back after a long time, so we wanted to have a good look at them, get them in and see what they have to offer. “Having said that, no doors are closed on anyone. Anyone can come in anytime. If we feel like we need Chahal for the World Cup, we`ll see how we can squeeze him in, same goes for Washy or Ashwin.”
The management has clearly punted on the superior batting skills of Axar though Chahal has got more wickets in the 50-over format since the start of 2022. Chahal has taken 24 wickets in 16 games since the start of last year while the more economical left-arm spinner has 13 scalps in 14 games. However, Chahal`s non-selection in the Asia Cup squad was not entirely a surprise as he sat on the sidelines in the ODI series in the West Indies. He got the breakthroughs in the following T20s in the Caribbean but the selectors were not convinced enough. His unlikely comeback will mainly depend on the performance of the chosen trio in the Asia Cup beginning August 31. But with selectors set to announce the provisional World Cup squad by September 5, is there enough time to change their minds? Perhaps, No.
(With agency inputs)
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