India’s spinners have had the worst economy rate of all the 12 ICC full-member countries in One-Day Internationals since the 2019 World Cup, with a 5.72. Only Zimbabwe’s and England’s strike rates are better than India’s average of 48.87 and strike rate of 51.2. In other words, an Indian spinner’s average ODI spell over this time period was 10-0-57.2-1.17. They haven’t stopped runs by sacrificing a few more wickets, nor have they taken wickets by sacrificing a few more runs.
Following the recent ODI series against South Africa, coach Rahul Dravid stressed the importance of improving India’s wicket-taking options throughout the middle stages of an ODI inning, when spinners are used more frequently.
An already tough art has become even more difficult to master throughout the years. Changes in ODI ball and fielding limits, as well as the rise of T20 cricket, where leg-spinners, paradoxically, have come to reign. These are universal factors. The failure to develop wrist-spin bench strength in one-day internationals, as well as the two worlds of domestic and international cricket. These are unique to the Indian situation.
- What went wrong?
Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal were a delight for cricket fans and a threat to batsmen for a couple of seasons. In a six-match ODI series in South Africa in early 2018, the wrist-spin duo took 33 wickets. However, even in the IPL, Kuldeep’s results and game time began to decline drastically.
Ravindra Jadeja, India’s left-arm spinner, has averaged 58.75 at 5.5 runs per over since the 2019 World Cup. The home spinners grabbed nine wickets in the last three-match ODI series in South Africa, whereas India’s spinners only managed three. Even Aiden Markram had more wickets than Ravichandran Ashwin, forget about Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj.
For over five years, Virat Kohli has commended India’s white-ball teams, yet no wrist-spinner other than Chahal or Kuldeep has played an ODI under him. Rahul Chahar did receive some playing time last year, but it was with Shikhar Dhawan’s second-string team, which toured Sri Lanka while the main group was in England for Test matches.
There was no meaningful back-up once Kuldeep weakened – and why his fall couldn’t be stopped deserves its own tale – The team’s administration attempted to patch the hole with finger spin, but it was clear that they were substituting apples for oranges.
Sivaramakrishnan believes that a leg spinner’s mindset in ODIs should be the same as it is in Test cricket: to take wickets. “In one-day international cricket, the goal is to reduce the number of boundaries. As a result, you must throw as many good balls as possible. Going for five singles in six balls is a five per over rate. If Miandad was on the other side, I had to bowl a good ball. A wicket-taking ball, on the other hand, remains a wicket-taking ball.
“However, today’s spinners are devoid of heart. They’re content to go at a reasonable economic pace instead of chasing wickets. Even if you watch the U19 final, you’ll notice that the majority of the (England) wickets were taken by pace. Only one wicket fell to spinners, and it was a slog sweep.”