By Chetan Sharma
New Delhi, Jan 23 (IANS): As veteran offie Ravichandran Ashwin failed to impress in his comeback to the ODI fold in the ongoing three-match series against South Africa, the call to bring back young spinner Kuldeep Yadav in the Indian white ball team has gained pace among cricket fanatics.
Ashwin was rested for the third ODI in Cape Town and Jayant Yadav came in his place but he also failed to take any wicket and finished with the bowling figures of 10-0-53-0. During the match, the commentators were discussing the importance of Kuldeep in the team, recalling the way 'KulCha' (Kuldeep and Yuzvendra Chahal) dominated the ODI series against South Africa in 2018.
Just to remind readers, Chahal took 16 wickets the last time India played an ODI series in South Africa in 2018 and Kuldeep scalped 17. The duo was a regular in the Indian white-ball squad between 2017 to 2019 and achieved great success.
But things changed quickly, especially for Kuldeep after the 2019 World Cup in England. The 27-year-old has had a rough ride in the past two years, after a five-wicket haul in Sydney, when head coach Ravi Shastri had termed him as India's No 1 spinner in overseas conditions in 2019.
In the last couple of years, the UP-born spinner, who has picked 107 wickets in his 65-match ODI career, for various reasons, has been moved down the pecking order among spinners in India. The Indian team management lost faith in his abilities even on rank turners, where classical left-arm orthodox Shahbaz Nadeem was picked from among the stand-bys, but Kuldeep, who was in the main squad, didnt get a chance in October 2019.
Kuldeep, who has picked 26 wickets at an average of 23.85, has not been able to nail down his spot in Test cricket too as Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja became the preferred options in the longest format.
But the poor show of Ashwin against Proteas recently -- both in Test and ODI series - has raised question marks over the 35-year-old Tamil Nadu spinner's overseas performances.
In the Test series, he managed to scalp just three wickets in the 64.1 overs he bowled in the three matches against the Proteas. And in the two ODI matches, Ashwin returned with figures of 1/52 and 0/68. He didn't feature in the playing XI in the third ODI.
As per Ashwin's record, he has picked up 430 wickets in 84 Tests, at an average of 24.38, economy of 2.77 and a strike rate of 52.7. He has 30 five-wicket hauls and his best in 7/59.
However, the bulk of his wickets (300) are in his 49 home matches, where he had an average of 21.40, an economy of 2.69, and a strike rate of 47.6. As many as 24 of his five-wicket hauls, as well as his best performance, are at home.
In his 34 matches on foreign soil, he has only picked up 126 wickets at an average of 31.88, an economy of 2.93, and a strike rate of 65.2. His best is 7/83. On his sole neutral venue outing, he took four wickets at an average of 11.25, an economy of 1.80, and a strike rate of 37.5. His best was 2/17.
The 35-year-old's substandard display has invited criticism from all corners.
In the midst of it, 'bring back Kuldeep' gained momentum in social media. "R u missing #kuldeep yadav guys??" wrote one on Twitter. Another said: "India Missing Kuldeep Yadav badly in Middle overs #SAvsIND #Kuldeep."
"Kuldeep is a pure talent. Rest Ashwin, bring back KulCha combo," said one.
Kuldeep, who has been missing out of action since being ruled out of the second leg of Indian Premier League (IPL) 14 due to a knee injury, has finally returned to regular training. He underwent knee surgery in September and has been on the path of recovery at the National Cricket Academy, Bengaluru.
India are scheduled to announce the ODI team for the West Indies series and Kuldeep, if fully fit, has a good chance to make it to the team.
Kuldeep joined the NCA for injury rehab and has been keeping his fans updated with regular photos and videos. In one of his earlier uploads, the spinner was seen working his batting skills during the net practice at the NCA.
The spinner was also appointed the captain of the Uttar Pradesh team for the Ranji Trophy, which has been postponed due to Covid-19.