Unpredictable Kuldeep Yadav a fine spinner to replace Ravindra Jadeja in India's third Test against Sri Lanka

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Ahead of the second Test in Colombo, coach Ravi Shastri discussed India’s rich bench strength. “We are happy to have a number of options available. It is a good headache and it helps to have healthy competition for places,” he had said.

By that same measure, Virat Kohli will get to test his squad’s depth in the third Test at Pallekele starting on Saturday.

Thanks to Ravindra Jadeja’s one-match suspension, the Indian skipper will have to pick an alternate spinner to pair up with R Ashwin. At the time of writing, left-arm spinner (who can also bat a bit) Axar Patel had been drafted into the squad.

He will arrive on Thursday and will be available for selection, a like-for-like replacement (if only on paper) to the No1 Test bowler and all-rounder.

The other option is picking left-arm leg-spinner Kuldeep Yadav.

Usually, India have a firm selection policy – those in-waiting within the squad are picked ahead of any fringe players coming in. While Patel is yet to make his Test debut, Yadav has played one match – in Dharamsala, against Australia, where he took 4-68 in the first innings of the series’ decider.

“It isn’t clear as there are still three days remaining,” said Yadav.

If you look at the lush-green square at the Pallekele International Stadium, you would simply assume neither gets a chance. But three days is a long time in cricket, especially when the home team is fairing so poorly against a far superior, No1 ranked opposition. That grass should vanish, like it did at the SSC on the morning of the second Test. And if so, Yadav will only be too eager to play.

“I am excited because playing in Sri Lanka will be the result of my hard work. If you are in the same Test team as the No1 and No2 bowlers in Test cricket, you will have to wait your chance,” he said.

His words have a matter-of-fact mannerism about them. New to the rigours of international cricket, which includes handling googlies from the media, Yadav is from the Virender Sehwag school of banter – he plays them with a straight bat, or often, hits them out of the park.

Kuldeep Yadav's unique action brings about unpredictability.

Kuldeep Yadav’s unique action brings about unpredictability.

“In my childhood days, I have played on cement wickets. They are tougher than grassy wickets to bowl on. So, I never look at what the pitch is like. I just try to bowl in the right areas and get as many wickets as possible,” he quipped.

Like any other member of the squad, Yadav is simply making a case for himself to be included in the next playing 11. Of course, captain Kohli is no stranger to his prowess. When he awed in that fourth Test against Australia, the skipper was at a loss for words at the instantaneous impact made by the youngster in a series-deciding game.

“Inspired selection and performance” is how Kohli had deemed it then.

Then, of course there is the recent ODI tour to the Caribbean. After the heartbreaking loss in the Champions Trophy final, it was an obvious conclusion in Indian cricket circles that Ashwin-Jadeja might not be the best fit in the same ODI line-up. Result – in the next series against the West Indies, Yadav played all five matches while Ashwin and Jadeja split their appearances.

Unlike Patel, who has an irregular presence even in the limited-overs’ set-up, there is a familiarity about the left-arm leg-spinner already. Clearly, management is aware of what Yadav brings to the table – an unpredictability given his action and style of bowling, the chance to take wickets as few batsmen can conformably comprehend a ‘chinaman’ bowler, and most of all, chutzpah.

The spunky youngster is ever ready to get into a duel, regardless of who is at the crease. It is, after all, how spinners get their wickets.

“During my debut Test I didn’t care who I was playing against, Australia or somebody else. For me that was an unforgettable moment, because ever since childhood, I have only wanted to play Test cricket and make my family proud. I don’t think any other moment can top it. Everyone was watching me. I knew it was my moment to impress,” Yadav said.

Kuldeep has displaced Jayant Yadav as India's third spinner.

Kuldeep has displaced Jayant Yadav as India’s third spinner.

Impress he did, for until that point in time, Jayant Yadav was the designated third-choice spinner. On this tour, the first Test series after a long 2016-17 home season, his name-sake has overtaken him in the pecking order. Sure, he is still only third behind Ashwin and Jadeja.

But with the latter missing, there is certain air of confidence that this second-spinner slot belongs to him, even if temporarily.

“I couldn’t sleep the night before my Test debut. I was excited, but more than that I was nervous, about performing and playing for India. I am not sleepless anymore,” Yadav signed off.

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Nerves and excitement for India's Kuldeep Yadav as he replaces Ravindra Jadeja for final Test at Pallekele

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India’s Kuldeep Yadav said Wednesday he felt both excited and nervous before the final Test against Sri Lanka as the left-arm wrist spinner prepared to fill in for suspended star bowler Ravindra Jadeja.

Yadav is expected to make the starting XI in the Test at Pallekele starting Saturday in place of Jadeja, who was handed a one-match ban for dangerous play in India’s last Test against Sri Lanka.

The 22-year-old spinner made an impressive Test debut against Australia in India in March before going on to claim eight wickets in five one-day international appearances between June and July against the West Indies.

“If I get a chance to play in Sri Lanka I will be very happy because I have been working hard and this will be a result of that. So obviously excited,” Yadav told reporters.

“But also there is nervousness that I should be able to perform.”

Yadav joined the squad for the three-Test series in Sri Lanka, but the presence of world-number one Test bowler Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin denied him a slot in the starting lineup.

The youngster is expected to replace the suspended Jadeja for the final Test

The youngster is expected to replace the suspended Jadeja for the final Test

Despite being overshadowed, the Kanpur-born player said exposure to these two star spinners had served him well.

“Definitely you will have to wait for your chance if the number-one and number-two spinners are in the same squad as you,” said Yadav.

“It is good that I have worked with them and I have been in the team with them for last 6-7 months… I try to stay with them mostly and keep talking to them and they help me a lot.”

Yadav, one of the few left-arm unorthodox spinners alongside Sri Lanka’s Lakshan Sandakan and South African Tabraiz Shamsi, said the style was gaining in popularity.

“When I started there were hardly any,” he said, adding cricket academies were honing more unorthodox bowlers.

“It is a happy feeling that people have recognised this skill.”

Provided by AFP

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Virat Kohli leads top five Indian captains with the best overseas records in Test cricket

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With Sunday’s innings victory over Sri Lanka in Colombo, Virat Kohli continued his impressive start to the India captaincy by winning his sixth away Test in twice as many matches.

Success overseas has generally been the barometer of judging any Indian cricket captain’s tenure as the team has traditionally been strong at home.

We take a look at the top five Test captains for India in foreign conditions with a minimum of five victories in their overall tenure.

Saurav Ganguly

Matches – 28

Won – 11

Loss – 10

Draw – 7

Win Rate – 39.28%

With 11 away victories to his credit, Ganguly remains the most successful overseas Test skipper for India. He is the man credited with changing the side’s approach to away Tests after India had long been tagged as notoriously poor travellers.

Ganguly’s men won solitary Tests in Australia, England, Pakistan, West Indies and Sri Lanka while the remaining six of their victories have come against the likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

The southpaw’s victories against the formidable Aussies and England gave a new belief to the Indians that they could succeed in the swinging and seaming tracks.

Ganguly and Dravid achieved a fair amount of overseas success each.

Ganguly and Dravid achieved a fair amount of overseas success each.

Virat Kohli

Matches – 12

Won – 6

Loss – 2

Draw – 4

Win Rate – 50%

Sri Lanka remains a favourite hunting spot for Kohli as evident by four of his six away victories coming against the islanders. The run started in India’s 2015 tour of Sri Lanka where they won a Test series for the first time in 22 years. Kohli’s men won the three-match series 2-1.

Since then the Indian skipper has won a further two Test against the West Indies in 2016 before returning to Sri Lanka for the current tour.

While Kohli’s Test captaincy began in a tour of Australia at the end of 2014, he is yet to lead his side in England, South Africa and New Zealand among others. With age on his side, he still has a lot of time to catch up to Ganguly.

Mahender Singh Dhoni

Matches – 30

Won – 6

Loss – 15

Draw – 9

Win Rate – 20%

While the Ranchi maverick remains the second most successful captain in India’s Test history, he has a bit of a mixed record when it comes to overseas conditions.

Dhoni’s men won a historic series in New Zealand in 2009 and held their own in a 1-1 drawn series against South Africa in 2010.

Apart from another away victory over Bangladesh, the World Cup winning captain had a torrid time leading against the likes of England and Australia in the latter half of tenure. He oversaw his side’s 11 losses in 14 matches against the two nations, managing only a solitary victory against England in 2014.

Dhoni's poor record in England and Australia overshadowed his tenure.

Dhoni’s poor record in England and Australia overshadowed his tenure.

Rahul Dravid

Matches – 17

Won – 5

Loss – 4

Draw – 8

Win Rate – 29.41%

The former middle-order stalwart of India did not have a long tenure alike Dhoni and Ganguly but his limited time at the squad’s helm was a fairly successful one.

Having taken over the captaincy from Ganguly, Dravid’s time was defined with an away Test series victory in Pakistan in his first overseas assignment.

The lowest point of Dravid’s captaincy was a 3-1 loss to the West Indies in 2005. The man famously nicknamed the ‘Wall’ has away Test victories over the likes of England, South Africa and Sri Lanka in his kitty.

Bishan Singh Bedi

Matches – 11

Won – 3

Loss – 6

Draw – 2

Win Rate – 18.18%

The Amritsar-born Bedi had a four-year stint with the national team captaincy from 1975 to 1979.

The leg-spinner took over the reigns from the legendary Sunil Gavaskar and his tenure featured away tours to New Zealand, West Indies, Australia and arch-rivals Pakistan.

Bedi;s tenure included wins against the might West Indies and Australia

Bedi’s tenure included wins against the might West Indies and Australia.

India ran the mighty West Indies close but lost 2-1 in a four-match series. It was the Australian Tour down under in 1977 that Bedi earned his stripes. In a five-match series, his men famously won a couple of Tests but went down 3-2 eventually.

His three away Test victories as the national skipper gives him the final spot in the list above the likes of Mohammad Azharuddin, Kapil Dev and Gavaskar.

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