In India’s T20 team, the No. 7 spot is wide open for the spin bowling all-rounders to grab. Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar are the front-runners as far as India’s plans are concerned. Both are in India’s T20 squad for the series in Australia while Krunal Pandya last played a T20I game a year ago. Axar Patel has been out of the scheme of things for long while Rahul Tewatia had set the stage on fire for the first time in the IPL. Here we look at India’s spin bowling options in the shortest format.
THE BEST BOWLER?
Since the mentioned players are contenders for the No. 7 Spot, bowling should be the first benchmark as India would need four quality overs from the player. As far as the IPL 2020 is concerned, Jadeja and Krunal were among the underperformers. Spinners generally operate in the middle-overs. Among spinners who bowled at least 100 balls in overs 7-16, Sundar (5.67 RPO) and Axar (6.46 RPO) were among the top-5 economical bowlers; while Jadeja (8.39 RPO) was among the bottom three.
If the average is the benchmark, Krunal (94.67) and Jadeja (55.40) were among the bottom three. Barring Tewatia, others failed to pick up enough wickets in the phase. Again, it adds something to debate between wrist-spinners and fingers spinners.
Krunal, Axar and Jadeja operated in the powerplay as well, and did a pretty fine job, especially Sundar.
Sundar was excellent because of his impeccable line, length and speed. His average speed on recorded deliveries was 97.73 kph, the highest for a spinner after Chris Green who bowled just 14 balls. The off-spinner bowled over 80% of his balls on the good-length; batsmen struggled to play their shots. He bowled 67% of his balls in the outside off-stump line.
Off-spin, quick deliveries and using angles were his main weapons. He managed to consistently hit the correct spots and kept it tight for the batsmen.
He managed to control the flow of runs but didn’t pick up enough wickets, which is okay for the Indian bowling attack – an attack which has enough wicket-takers. However, picking up wickets (by working on his skills, e.g., learning more variations) will help him in the long-run.
Axar followed the Sundar path. He was also very consistent with his line, length and pace. Among spinners who bowled more than 42 balls, his good-length percentage of 82.03% was the highest. He bowled about 70% his balls in the outside off-stump line, the highest among spinners who bowled more than two overs. His average pace (93.48 kph) was good too.
Axar picked up some wickets against RHBs, however, just one vs LHBs. Even though Axar wasn’t among the wickets against the southpaws, he was economical, unlike the previous two seasons in which he had an economy of over 9 vs LHBs.
Jadeja was quick too as his average speed of over 94 kph tells, however, he bowled over 25% of his total balls on the full-length and leaked runs at 11.56 RPO. Bowling full is an aggressive option, and it is generally useful for wrist spinners or bowlers who have enough variations in their armoury. Jadeja uses very little variations.
Jadeja’s stock ball (orthodox) and straighter ones didn’t help him, and he bowled just about 21% arm-balls while the percentage of arm-balls for the likes of Krunal, Axar and Nadeem were much-higher.
Krunal did a decent job against right-handed batsmen, however, his economy against the southpaws was over 10. Almost nothing worked for Krunal against the southpaws, be it a good length or the arm-balls. Sometimes, he seemed very predictable and he tried many things at the other times. Attempting yorkers against LHBs, Krunal bowled 31% full-length and full-toss balls on which the batsmen cashed in.
Krunal was really tested against LHBs this season as he bowled more than twice of numbers of balls than he ever did in a season earlier.
Tewatia picked up more wickets against both batting types – he had a balanced strike rate against LHBs as well as RHBs. He utilised the advantage of being a wrist spinner as mentioned earlier. Among spinners who bowled at least 100 balls this season, only Yuzvendra Chahal had a lower average speed than Tewatia. The leg-spinner mixed up his leg-break with googlies well and reaped rewards. However, you could argue that he over-achieved, given his bowling skill-set despite some improvement.
Given the structure of India’s T20 side, Sundar would add variety in the attack. Chahal is the first-choice spinner as Kuldeep Yadav is dropped from the squad. The likes of Krunal, Jadeja and Axar favour the angle for LHBs and Tewatia is already a leggie.
Among spinners who bowled at least 60 balls against southpaws this season, no one was more economical than Sundar and only two had (an induced) higher false shot percentage – both wrist-spinners.
Again, the issue with Sundar is him not picking enough wickets. He is able to contain them and build pressure but has very little to show for in the wickets column. As mentioned, it won’t harm much in T20s, at least for a short time. Thus, to make his case stronger, in the long run, the management can work with him to improve his skills and be a bit more attacking when needed.
Jadeja also hasn’t been great against the southpaws for quite some time. Among spinners who bowled at least 10 overs vs LHBs this season, his economy was the highest. In the past two seasons, he wasn’t great as well – as he averaged over 40 with an economy of 8 against the southpaws.
THE BEST BATSMAN?
The expected batting role has to be hitting pacers in the death overs. Jadeja and Tewatia were class apart as compared to others. They also got more batting opportunities as compared to others and came good.
Even though Jadeja’s returns with the ball took a hit, he showed a massive improvement with the bat this season. During IPL 2014-19, his strike rate in the death overs went over 150 only once. This season in the death overs, he registered his season-best strike rate and the highest number of sixes and fours too. The signs of improvement in his hitting were visible.
Axar was expected to do better this time around in comparison to the previous seasons. However, it didn’t happen. Against pacers in the death overs, his strike rate was of 125 this season. Even though Axar the bowler stepped up, Axar the batsman didn’t.
Krunal Pandya didn’t face enough balls in the death overs this season. However, his batting returns in the IPL have taken a hit, especially in the past two seasons. Overall, Krunal averaged over 34 in his first two seasons, however, in the last three seasons, it has been under 25. His strike rate since 2019 is also under 125 which is very bad.
However, in the death overs, his strike rate hasn’t varied a lot but the average has. Average in the death overs doesn’t matter a lot but Krunal’s numbers are not promising enough. His weakness against the short balls and bouncers are very evident to the teams and they exploit it well.
Tewatia stole a lot of limelight with his batting heroics this season. Needless to say, he was good. However, to be successful in the long-run, he needs to improve his range and upgrade his batting for the off-side region. He plays a lot of pull-shots and adding more shots in his repertoire would serve him well against quality pacers.
Sundar isn’t a finisher at the IPL-level yet. He can time the ball well, however, he lacks power and the slogging capability currently. He is still young and has enough time to work on his batting as well as his body.
What works for India?
Currently, against the teams, India can afford to sacrifice the batting-depth, Sundar is a good option. Also, India should play Sundar against the teams having some southpaws in their batting unit. Sundar is also a good option for the No. 8 spot if India want to go with a spin-heavy bowling attack. India can have Jadeja against teams having plenty of right-handed batsmen.