Kuldeep’s Inclusion: Finger on the Pulse

Very rarely has the Indian cricket team shown the forthright sensibility to sometimes adopt the horses for courses policy or shown an inclination to swerve from their own rigid plans. However, with the selectors now including Kuldeep Yadav for the first three Tests on India’s tour of England, they have shown a rare refreshing, daring sense of courage.

The Indian cricket team have not always had the reputation of having their finger on the pulse of the situation. However, in what seems like a deviation from the norm, making the exception is the bold decision of the selectors undoubtedly in consultation with the team management that Kuldeep Yadav is worthy of a Test cap and that the time is ripe.

The weather conditions in England, being unusually warm, have lent themselves into India being virtually coerced to include the left arm wrist spinner in the Test squad. Another factor playing into the scenario would be the case of India not having done quite as well as expected in the one day internationals to emulate a scenario such as in the Twenty20 internationals when India staged a comeback. Undoubtedly India have been trying out a few combinations that may have compromised their ability to go out for an all out win. But the back-to-back losses would have, also, prompted the need to ensure that the best players are retained in the Indian team for the forthcoming five Test series which is really what this tour is about.

However, while there are several contentious factors that may have played into forcing the hand of the selectors and the team management to look beyond the usual suspects of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja for additional spin options in usually seamer-friendly England, what has ultimately determined the decision is Kuldeep Yadav himself with outstanding performances of a five-for in the first Twenty20 international and then against in the one day internationals where he picked up six wickets in a single match in the only match India managed to win.

In a direct application of ‘strike when the iron is hot’, the Indian cricket team could not overlook the fact that Kuldeep Yadav’s phenomenal success against the England batsmen was a huge factor in the matches that India did win. Although it appeared that the England batsmen were, also, learning and adapting in that they decided to play more conservatively and cautiously against the spinner as the series progressed, not using Kuldeep Yadav while he has been on a roll would have been undermining India’s chances, particularly at a time when the focus has shifted from the debacle under Mahendra Singh Dhoni when India lost their last overseas Test series in England in a 4-0 whitewash to expectations of redemption under Virat Kohli in what is expected to be an attritional contest not just physically but also, of mental outwitting each other.

While the presence of Kuldeep Yadav, a Chinaman, does not automatically guarantee victory for India, what it does is give the Indian skipper more options in conditions where pitches have been exposed to far more summer-like conditions than usually accorded in typical English conditions. At a time when India have been somewhat unsettled by the absence of Jasprit Bumrah for at least the first Test and suffered further setback with the aggravation of injury to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, having an ace up their sleeve in a scenario of a five day format where wear and tear could be mental as well as physical is undoubtedly an asset, heading into a five Test match series with the intention to rewrite history.

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