As India prepare for a gruelling five-Test series against England, the focus is on their team combination. With injuries to fast bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and keeper Wriddhiman Saha, along with the poor form of batsmen Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara, the Indian team has a lot on its plate.
Adding to the workload of the team management is the emergence of left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav as a late favourite for a spot in the playing XI in the Test team after his superb bowling efforts in the T20s and ODIs against the Englishmen.
Kuldeep, 23, is now being seen as having as good a chance as established veterans Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja of playing the first Test.
However, former Australia batsman Mike Hussey said Ashwin remains India’s No1 Test spinner.
“Kuldeep is a fantastic bowler and has done well. Personally, I don’t think Kuldeep should play at the expense of Ashwin. I think Ashwin deserves his place in the team as he has been a brilliant Test match bowler for a long period of time,” Hussey was quoted as saying by the Times of India.
“He has over 300 Test wickets plus England have many left-handers and Ashwin can play a big role. There is still plenty of time for Kuldeep as he is young. Let him keep learning along the way but if there is an injury or an opportunity, then I am sure he will do a good job for India.”
Considering she is only 25, the fact that Veda Krishnamurthy has 96 international caps to her name shows just how far the Indian star has come since her debut in 2011.
Back then, the batswoman donned the famous blue jersey for the first time as an 18-year-old against Australia in the Women’s T20I in England but her competitive bow was a disappointment as she was dismissed for just two runs.
That was just a minor blip as seven days later, Krishnamurthy let the bat do the talking in style by scoring a half-century against England in her first ODI. It may have come in a losing cause with the English winning by six wickets but it was just the start of things to come.
Fast forward to today and Krishnamurthy is now among the first names on India’s team sheet with more than 1,400 international runs in all formats. 48 ODIs and as many T20Is to be precise.
She is certain to add to that tally when the national team travels to the West Indies in November for the Women’s World Twenty20.
It’s a competition the Indians have never won before despite their dominance in the Asia Cup, in which they have lifted seven titles previously. It could have been eight in June but the subcontinent giants were stunned by Bangladesh in Kuala Lumpur.
But with that shock defeat firmly behind them, the focus is now on the Caribbean and the challenge of dethroning West Indies in their own backyard.
“There is no point sitting and feeling bad about the Asia Cup,” Krishnamurthy told Sport360. “It’s done and it’s over and the only thing we can do is go to the World Cup and do well there. Doing well over there might do good for us.
“As a whole, the women’s game has been dominated a bit with the Asian sides. Out of 10 teams, you have four Asian nations competing for the World Twenty20. It’s going to be a good thing for all of us and the standard of cricket has certainly improved. There will be pressure for everybody and for us to go out there and do well. This is a game about how how well you do on that particular day. It’s important that we take it game by game and put in a good team performance.”
India will have their share of the limelight in the Caribbean. Their run at the 2017 World Cup where they were beaten by hosts England, got people talking in India and more importantly more girls were hooked on cricket.
“The girls game has improved so much,” she added. “The standard of the game has improved vastly and that happened since the World Cup with the way we were playing the game. It has made a huge impact and a lot of girls have taken up the game.
“Every academy now has girls and we are happy that we could help bring change to India. We needed something big to happen and the World Cup was the perfect stage and time.”
Earlier this year, Krishnamurthy signed for Hobart Hurricanes in the 2017-18 Women’s Big Bash League, scoring 144 runs in nine matches.
The opportunity to showcase her talent on Australian soil was one that she cherished even though it took time to find her feet on and off the pitch.
“It was a very different experience to get out of my comfort zone and handle everything by myself,” she said. “It was a challenging two months for me but I’m glad that I could learn a lot. Eventually I ended up being a better player and better person.
“That was because I was very independent and made sure I did everything correctly. To play with a different set of players was very challenging as you have to understand them. I did struggle for the first couple of weeks but had a good environment and the players were really helpful. After a few weeks, I really enjoyed playing with them.”
With the IPL going from strength to strength since the men’s edition was launched in 2008, the BCCI have yet to launch a women’s tournament.
The closest thing to the IPL that Krishnamurthy and her fellow players have been involved in on home soil was during the inaugural Women’s T20 Challenge in May where several Indian, New Zealand and Australia women internationals played at the Wankhede Stadium.
She believes the BCCI must put all their resources together and follow Australia and England in launching their own T20 tournaments, with a domestic T20 league an obvious option to generate interest.
“The BCCI have been doing a lot of things from the time we have come under their wings and there has been a drastic change every year,” she added.
“We definitely know we have to do something really big for people to come and watch cricket. That was an important agenda when we went to the World Cup and after the tournament, we were glad that girls wanted to watch the game.
“The BCCI have taken it to the next level with the contracts and increasing the fees. I think the next step is to launch the women’s IPL by 2019 or 2020. If that starts, then it will be the biggest league in the world – bigger than the Big Bash and KIA Super League.”
India coach Ravi Shastri defended his side’s decision to reduce their scheduled four-day game against Essex to a three-day game.
The match against Essex is the only first-class fixture India will play before they head to face England in the first Test of the five-match series, at Edgbaston in Birmingham.
There had been speculation that India’s unusual move had been made after they were provided with green practice pitches at Chelmsford which may bare little resemblance to the surface they get in the first Test.
But Shastri stressed on the fact that the reason India wanted a day lopped off the Essex fixture was because the team management believed it would be more beneficial if India had an extra day of training at Edgbaston instead.
“(We are) getting in there, into the Test match venue, because it wouldn’t have served the purpose here (Chelmsford),” Shastri told ESPNCricinfo.
NEWS: We play on any kind of pitch that is given to us: @RaviShastriOfc
The Indian Head Coach says on away tours the team does not worry about pitches on offer and expects the same from other teams when they visit India. #TeamIndia https://t.co/cXtcfMPsPo pic.twitter.com/y7KV9r4d2z
— BCCI (@BCCI) July 25, 2018
“Instead of an extra day here, I think an extra day (of training) there would be more valuable.
“More familiarity with the venue and the conditions where you are playing the first Test,” the former India all-rounder added.
“If we had played four days here we would have lost that one day there because of travel.”
Shastri said India were happy with the practice facilities at Chelmsford.
“There was no complaints from the Indian management about anything,” he said.
“On this entire trip, you will never see an Indian team giving excuses as regards to conditions or the pitch.
“Our challenge is to beat them. We take pride in performing wherever we go. We want to be the best travelling side in the world.
“So the last person who will make a complaint will be this Indian team.”
To back his point, Shastri brought to light a conversation he had with the Essex groundsman about the condition of the pitch on Tuesday.
“The groundsman (asked) do you want the grass to be taken off? I said absolutely not,” explained Shastri. “It is your prerogative. What you give, we play.”
— Essex Cricket (@EssexCricket) July 25, 2018
Essex who will refund fans who had purchased tickets for Saturday’s fourth day, suggested high temperatures in England were also a factor in India’s decision.
“As a result of India’s five-Test series against England during August and September, and the current high temperatures, the match will now take place on Wednesday 25-Friday 27 July,” said a club statement.
Meanwhile, at the close of play on Wednesday, India were 322 for six at stumps.
While four batsmen hit half-centuries, Dinesh Karthik was India’s highest scorer and remained unbeaten at 82 as captain Virat Kohli made 68.