It was clear to those watching the Indian off-spinner bowl in the fourth Test in Southampton that Ashwin was not at his best. He struggled for rhythm and failed to land successive deliveries on the same spot. On a pitch that had significant footmarks and the ball exploded off the surface as the match wore on, Ashwin was comfortably outbowled by Moeen Ali who took nine wickets in the Test.
It was apparent Ashwin couldn’t complete his action with the same effort that he would normally put behind every ball. It was due to an injury he had picked up in the third Test which India won at Trent Bridge.
There, Ashwin went through the motions with his bowling but it didn’t hurt India as much as the batsmen had piled on the runs and the rest of the pace attack ensured a big win.
But with the series on the line in the fourth Test, India went ahead with Ashwin and paid a big price for it. Kohli’s admission of Ashwin aggravating his niggle and thus not being selected for the fifth Test is the second such instance this tour of India picking an unfit player for a decider.
In the third ODI against England at Leeds with the series 1-1, India decided to field seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar who had been struggling with a serious back injury for many months and was trying to work his way around it.
The management apparently wanted to test his match fitness before the Test series but it became clear that he was well off the mark as he barely touched 80mph and England chased down the target of 257 with 33 balls to spare.
The Indian team management’s plans when it comes to fitness management has been exposed this season with wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha the biggest casualty; the keeper went out with a finger fracture in the IPL and ended up with a long-term shoulder injury during rehab.
And with India fielding unfit players in England, the team management must answer some tough questions by the BCCI hierarchy.
India‘s left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav is one of the most effective bowlers in limited overs cricket. His variations have seen him upstage established spinners like Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja and push the two out of the Indian set-up in the company of leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal.
But when it comes to red-ball cricket, the scenario is quite different.
Yadav was included in the Test squad in England after mesmerising England batsmen in the T20 and ODI series. He picked up a five-for in the first T20 against England and a six-for in the first ODI to push his way into the Indian Test team mix. However, the Indian team misread conditions in the first two Tests and got the combination wrong.
Kuldeep Yadav as a matter of fact has a very average first class record.— cricket freak (@cricloverakku) September 5, 2018
He was solely selected on the basis of white ball cricket and being a Chinaman.
He averages 32 with the ball. https://t.co/L4lTIO2jbJ
The pitch in Birmingham offered help to spinners and India went in with just Ravi Ashwin. The wicket at Lord’s for the second match turned out to be a seamer’s paradise but India inexplicably fielded two in Ashwin and Yadav.
The 23-year-old Yadav looked out of sorts as he got a pair and bowled nine overs without success and went for 44 runs.
The Indian management admitted it was a mistake playing Yadav and that seems to have affected his confidence. Now playing for India ‘A’, the ghost of England has followed the wrist spinner.
India ‘A’ lost the unofficial Test to Australia ‘A’ by 98 runs in Bengaluru. In the match, Australia’s left-arm finger spinner Jon Holland picked up nine wickets with six in the second to script a superb win for the visitors.
Yadav, however, only managed four wickets in the match and all of them were of lower order batsmen or tail-enders.
While Ashwin can give the excuse of playing in England, albeit helpful pitches, while nursing a hip injury, Yadav’s efforts at home against a team that has a traditional weakness against any sort of quality spin will not inspire any confidence.
According to quotes published by ESPNcricinfo, Kuldeep said he needs more game time in first-class matches to improve his consistency.
“You have to change your mindset when you come to play with the red ball,” Yadav said. “You need to be very patient. You’re not going to take wickets every time you come up to bowl. For me it’s very important to be patient and not to try too much.”
It is not just the senior Indian team that is struggling to chase down fourth-innings totals in red-ball cricket.
The Indian team lost the Pataudi Trophy to England 3-1 by losing the fourth match in Southampton by 60 runs. India failed to hunt down 245 in the fourth Test and 194 in the first in Birmingham to continue the trend of the men in blue failing to achieve fairly gettable targets.
Now it looks the team below them in the Indian set-up has also caught the bug. The India ‘A’ team lost the unofficial Test to Australia ‘A’ in Bengaluru in almost identical fashion as their senior team did in Southampton.
In Bengaluru, India ‘A’ restricted the Aussies to 243 in the first innings with pacer Mohammed Siraj picking up 8-59. Then the hosts managed to take a first-innings lead by scoring 274 thanks to a fighting 91 from Ankit Bawne.
The Aussie batting fared better in the second innings with Travis Head’s 87 taking the score to 292 and giving India a target of 262.
However, India ‘A’ batsmen fell dramatically at the final hurdle as left-arm spinner Jon Holland picked up 6-81 to seal a 98-run victory.
Holland outbowled India international wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav in the match, picking up nine wickets compared to the Indian’s four. In the Southampton Test, it was England offie Moeen Ali who outbowled his counterpart Ravi Ashwin hands down.
So it would be fair to say fourth-innings chases in any sort of Test is a challenge for Indian batting.