This article has been jotted down by the Crictec Editorial Staff. Crictec have dug deep to pull out some mind-boggling numbers.
Provided with challenging conditions, does the spin trio of Ashwin-Kuldeep-Jadeja have it in them to pull a rabbit out of the hat?
When it comes to playing Down Under, pace bowling is considered as the biggest strength for the bowlers to be successful. However, India has perennially been spin-heavy. As back as in 1977, India witnessed one of its famous victories overseas over an Australian side. And, this came as a result of a collapse triggered by India’s right-arm leg-break B.S. Chandrashekar’s 6/52 in Melbourne.
Australia has hardly provided assistance to spinners, with pitches failing to crack-up, even on the last two days of a test match. Barring the great Shane Warne, Australia has not produced great spinners. Right-arm off-spinner Nathan Lyon has been its most successful spinner in Tests since Shane Warne bid adieu. Despite mediocre returns of 139 scalps on Australian wickets, at a strike-rate of 66.5 (S/R 71 since 2015), he has been one of the constants in the Australian side.
Australia has always aided pace bowlers. Left-arm pacers have fared the best, both by virtue of Bowling Average and Strike-Rate in Australia. While its a thought to ponder on whether this could have been a good chance for India to experiment with left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed for Tests, the pace quartet of Bumrah, Shami, Ishant and Umesh, is by no means falling short.
Though spinners have traditionally remained the poorer cousins when bowling in Australia, right-arm off-breaks and left-arm orthodox spinners can take solace from the fact that between 2015 and 2018, they haven’t fared badly.
The above data makes the case for either of Ashwin (right arm off break) or Jadeja (left arm orthodox) to make a cut to the final XI.
Although the Aussies have had a strong batting lineup for a major part of the last three decades, the period between 2008 to 2011 was one of their weakest periods. Diminishing returns from giants of the modern game such as Ponting and Hayden, combined with a transition period that Australia found itself in, resulted in a side which struggled against spin.
With Australia missing the crucial services of Steve Smith and David Warner, it would not be appalling to suggest that Australia yet again finds itself in such a phase, and could very well find itself stuttering, having to fend for itself against spin.
Indian Spinners Love for the Left Handers
It isn’t uncommon to come across data points of how right-arm bowlers fare better against left-arm batsmen and vice-versa. But, all the three Indian spinners seem to have a better strike-rate against left-handed batsmen.
Australia, with four left-handers in its side, could end up finding itself in a hole. Ashwin – expected to figure in starting 11 – only he has played in South Africa and England, recently. Jadeja and Kuldeep did not come up with memorable performances in their respective lone game.
However, we could expect a scenario wherein Kuldeep or Jaddu could end up playing.
What to expect, Down Under?
Over the past few years, the Indian bowlers have just not been able to clean up the tail. Especially in England, after the pacers came up with consistent performances to knock over the top-order, the inability of the rest of the pack to clean up the last five has haunted India and in fact, cost it the series.
In test matches in England in 2018, the No. 7 position, in particular, has proved to be a thorn in the opposition’s flesh having converted two 100s and seven 50s this year, at an average bettering even the next best batting position, No. 4.
Herein, it needs to be noted that the Starcs and Cummins are no minnows with the bat, and India just cannot afford to let its guard loose even with the tail.
Talking of the ability of the Indian spinners to pick the wickets of tail-enders, Jadeja seems to have a slightly better knack of cleaning up the tail than Ashwin (incidentally, all wickets of Kuldeep this year have been of top or middle-order batsmen).
While this doesn’t prove as an outright case to include Jadeja in the team, India would ideally not want to put itself in a position where it has to pick a bowler merely to clean up the tail.
In the first innings of a Test match, when fast bowlers get most assistance from the track than the spinners, Kuldeep Yadav has clearly outshone Ashwin and Jadeja in his brief career so far. In all the three parameters such as strike-rate, average and dot ball percentage, Kuldeep has trumped his peers in his first innings performances. However, once the pitch starts turning, Kuldeep’s average worsens a bit, allowing the senior spinners in the side to eclipse Kuldeep’s prowess.
With these numbers, Kuldeep seems to have put forward a case for his inclusion in the side, especially in conditions such as Australia, where the conditions may not necessarily be conducive to spin.
Though the inclusion of one of these spinners in the side should ideally arise as a result of its bowling prowess, a necessity of a handy batsman down the order, especially on days when the top-order has had a collapse, can just not be negated.
Ashwin and Jadeja, both hold an upper hand over Kuldeep as a batsman. Ashwin at 29.5 and Jadeja at 32.44 have a decent batting average for a batsman batting lower down the order. But, in Australian conditions, it is important to be potent against sheer pace considering the speed at which the Aussie pacers work. Almost every second delivery from a pacer in this Australian side comes at a speed of over 140 kmph.
Though both Ashwin’s and Jadeja’s numbers look unimpressive, Ashwin has bettered Jadeja marginally in that criteria, with an average of 16, compared to Jadeja’s seven. Kuldeep Yadav, on the other hand, has not faced enough deliveries at >140kmph to be judged on how he could fare.
On an average, a spinner has bowled approximately 170 deliveries in the first innings of a Test match in Australia since 2015. However, unlike Asian pitches, tracks in Australia are not expected to deteriorate over the span of a test match. Therefore, considering the bowling strike rates of Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep in Asia, Kuldeep is expected to take 4.34 wickets per innings of the match, followed by Ashwin who is expected to take 3.55 and Jadeja, 3.15.
Similarly, only 32 runs are conceded per wicket in Australia. Factoring the combined batting and bowling prowess of the trio of Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep, Crictec Contribution Index provides a holistic view of how we think a player would contribute for India’s cause in the series. And, despite batting abilities of Ashwin and Jadeja coming into play, merely by virtue of his bowling, Kuldeep finds himself fitting into the side as our most potent option.