South Africa are the latest team in the list to be caught in India’s wrist-spin web. The Indian batsmen face Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav at the nets day in day out and they are the ones best-equipped to make a comparison between the two spinners in terms of the degree of difficulty. Shikhar Dhawan was asked to do that at the pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
“From my point of view, chinaman is more difficult to read. Between Kuldeep and Chahal, I think Kuldeep is a little harder to read. There are players who can’t read googlies. They will find Chahal’s googlies tough to handle. As far as I’m concerned, I find Kuldeep a little more difficult to read,” Dhawan said.
Chahal and Yadav had combined at Centurion on Sunday to bundle out the hosts to their lowest-ever ODI total (118) at home. Chahal took his maiden five-for in this format, bowling conventional leg spin. Yadav, the chinaman bowler, returned with three wickets. The two spinners have accounted for 13 scalps in two ODIs. Cape Town will host the third match on Wednesday and another Chahal-Yadav jugalbandi can give the tourists an unassailable 3-0 lead in the six-match series.
Asked about the Saffers’ travails against wrist spin, Dhawan said: “It’s difficult to play the wrist spinners because they can turn the ball even on a flat track. Especially the overseas players… They are not used to (playing spin). So the wrist spinners can create doubts in the batsmen’s mind. That’s why they are effective.”
There’s a school of thought that the South Africa batsmen aren’t trying to wear down Chahal and Yadav and suffering from a lack of patience. Dhawan, however, feels that uncertainty in their minds is working to India’s advantage. “I won’t say it’s the lack of patience, for when you are playing the ODIs you have to score runs (quickly). They can answer it better; about their problems. But they are losing wickets in a heap in the middle-overs, which is the reason why they are not getting to their target scores. If you have doubts in your mind, then that reflects on your batting. And this is giving us the advantage.”
India’s batting improvement after the Test series is remarkable. They won by six wickets at Durban followed by nine wickets at Centurion. Dhawan said the idea has had been to go on the offensive after getting set. “We are not losing wickets at the top. We are crossing the first 10 overs, then the ball gets a bit old and we are dominating after that.”
Rohit Sharma, however, has gotten out after getting starts in the first two ODIs. His overall ODI record in South Africa is poor — 121 runs in 10 matches at 13.44. But Dhawan refused to read into that. “Rohit is playing amazing, the way he is timing the ball. Even in the last match he was playing very good. Unfortunately he got out, but I don’t feel any concern about his batting. He is timing the ball well, that’s what matters most.”