Around this time two years ago, Indian cricket fans were introduced to the sublime skills of a wiry little leg-spinner from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Ravi Bishnoi took 17 scalps in the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa and bamboozled most batsmen and had India’s batsmen put up a better show in the final against Bangladesh, he would have ended up being on the winning side. Two IPLs (24 scalps in 23 games for Punjab Kings at under 7) and two seasons later, he has been named in the India senior side in the ODIS to face West Indies.
That after IPL’s latest franchise, Lucknow Super Giants, got him under their wing for 4 crore. The Indian selectors have roughly took about 20 months to fix that was clearly a problem area in the ODIs in South Africa. The drought of wickets in the middle overs (10-40) and for that they have gone back to a tactic that served them well post the 2017 Champions Trophy and the 2019 World Cup. Wrist spin. Hence, the recall handed to chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, who has recovered from his knee surgery. Yuzvendra Chahal, Bishnoi and Kuldeep will be banked upon to provide the team the much-abused X-factor and the breakthroughs, something that the side under KL Rahul (will miss the first ODI) struggled with in South Africa.
The selectors have also invested in the pace of MP’s Avesh Khan (such a force for Delhi Capitals in the IPL), who can bowl yorkers at speed in the death overs and is a good exponent of reverse swing. Without both Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami (rested), he can be expected to shore up the fast bowling duties alongside Shardul Thakur, Mohammad Siraj and Prasidh Krishna in the ODIs. The unimpressive Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been sidelined for the 50-over contests, but has been trusted for the T20Is that follow. Former India coach Ravi Shastri may have thought that ex-skipper Virat Kohli could be re-energised with a break, but the batting great is clearly in no mood for it. He looked good in South Africa with two fifty-plus scores in the three games despite the three-figure score proving to be as elusive as a permanent respite from Covid-19. Selectors have also curiously chosen to ignore the explosive skills of M Shahrukh Khan, who was a revelation as a hard-hitting finisher for Tamil Nadu in both the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 trophy and the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy.