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Sunil Joshi: “I’d choose Kuldeep over Chahal in India’s World Cup squad.”



Yuzvendra Chahal

Kuldeep Yadav won the Player-of-the-Match award in December for his five-for in the series’ lone Test in Bangladesh. He followed it up with match-winning performances in ODI series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand at home, and he forced his way into India’s team for the first two Tests against Australia, which begin next week in Nagpur. While Kuldeep has rediscovered his mojo, his good friend and spin twin, Yuzvendra Chahal, appears to have lost it. Chahal, who became India’s leading wicket-taker in Twenty20Is on Sunday, has struggled with his bowling rhythm, technique, and confidence for some time now, forcing the team management to sideline him frequently.

Sunil Joshi, a former India left-arm spinner who served on the Indian selection panel between 2020 and 2022, has closely monitored both Kuldeep and Chahal’s performances. Joshi deconstructs their approaches, explains what makes them effective or ineffective, and selects his World Cup squad.

Kuldeep Yadav was recently named Player of the Match at Chattogram, Bangladesh. He also had strong performances in one-day internationals against Sri Lanka and New Zealand. What makes him so powerful?

Kuldeep has worked really hard on a couple of things. I’ve been watching him closely since my tenure as coach at Uttar Pradesh, when he played a few games after being dropped from the Indian team during the 2019-20 season.

During the [2020-21] England series, I observed Kuldeep closely during the Chennai Test matches: his body was considerably more open-chested, and his [right] hand was falling away from the point of target. Your non-bowling arm should follow the batsman, and your bowling hand should be as near to the batsman’s head as feasible. If you think of a clock, your bowling arm should come from just before 12 o’clock; if it comes from 1 o’clock, the trajectory will be flatter. If your non-bowling arm is straight, your bowling hand will naturally move closer to the head. Kuldeep has made another change.

He concentrated on his arm speed, which was slightly slower. The spring in his bowling run-up is now visible. He has made the run-up smoother and more consistent, and his arm speed is good. In the follow-through, his body is moving towards the batsman, and his line of attack has improved. More revolutions are on the ball.

A great illustration of [all of this coming together] is Dasun Shanaka’s wicket [in the ODIs in Kolkata and Thiruvananthapuram earlier this month] – the way he bowled him, that’s the line we’ve been discussing with Kuldeep and he understood what was necessary.

He also changes how he uses the crease. He was bowling near the centre of the crease earlier. He now bowls wider, from the centre, and close to the stumps. As a left-arm wristspinner, every time you bowl away from the crease, especially to a right-hander, it will be difficult if you don’t get the line perfect. You end up bowling middle-and-leg when you get close to the stumps. It’s an ideal angle for getting near to the stumps and taking the ball away from the left-hander. The greatest film for bowling a right-hander, in my opinion, is [to watch] the Dasun Shanaka wicket in Thiruvananthapuram, where Kuldeep got him through the gap between bat and pad.

Do you think he’s gotten smarter and more consistent?

You must give him credit. He has worked extremely hard and clearly understands what is required. He has also played in domestic matches. He appeared in one Test and three One-Day Internationals for India A against New Zealand A. He did well, getting wickets.

The greater discussion about Kuldeep’s improved consistency, as some previous players have noted, is his delivery speed.

I always think that bowling speeds between 70 and 85kph are ideal for spinners. The faster you bowl through the air, the easier it is for a batsman to line up. When the bowler slows down, adjusts his speed, or starts spinning, the batsman must use his intellect to determine the pitch of the ball, as well as his technique and timing.

Kuldeep has worked hard on his speed, which I believe is presently between 75kph and late 80s. He doesn’t bowl any faster than that. The more revolutions you put on the ball, the more it will skid through after pitching.

Former India head coach Ravi Shastri says Kuldeep’s efforts on hip flexion and lower-body strength has enabled him to transmit such revs. Do you concur?

That will only happen when he has focused on his delivery stride. That is why it is much easier to transfer your body weight towards the target when everything is side-on – when everything is side-on, you immediately transfer your body weight [properly] and your hip drive will improve significantly.

Rhythm is divided into three sections: run-up, delivery stride, and follow-through. If one of these is missed, the bowler will be in a difficult situation. When you run too fast, everything happens too fast, including the movement, and the trajectory is flatter. Everything will be slow if you go too slowly – there will be fewer revolutions on the ball and the batsman will have enough time to go back or forward. If you do not complete your follow-through, you will bowl short. Because Kuldeep is short, he cannot have a longer stride as a spinner because you collapse and are unable to transmit body weight towards the batsman and extract the proper pace from your hip drive. A spinner’s delivery stride should be shoulder width – this is an optimal length.

Kuldeep Yadav
Kuldeep’s recent dismissals have been inside the 30-yard circle. For a bowler, that shows line and length consistency.

This is what we can see in Kuldeep now: the transfer of body weight, the hip drive, as Ravi said, and of course the arm speed, the front arm, and revolutions on the ball. Plus, he likes the small changes he has made to his bowling arsenal, which are helping him win.

What is the one thing you want him to keep getting better at?

He can probably sometimes bowl around the stumps to left-handed batters, who can’t see that area. If Kuldeep comes around the wickets, the batsman might think he’s going to take the ball away, but he doesn’t. If you saw how he got Henry Nicholls out yesterday [in the ODI in Hyderabad against New Zealand], that was a classic delivery. Daryl Mitchell was also lbw. And Dasun Shanaka’s forward defence was fully stretched, through the gate, and he was bowled.

He is doing this by always going the same length. He is probably in a spot right now where he can take wickets at any time and put pressure on the team. In white-ball cricket, you have to put pressure on the batsman and try to get inside his head. For example, Mitchell Santner bowled Virat Kohli in Hyderabad, but Kohli could have played forward.

Because R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, and Axar Patel are all very good at Test cricket, Kuldeep is fourth in line. But he’s shown that he can make a difference every time he’s called up. He will play in the first two Tests at home in February against Australia. Think he will be important in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy?

I believe so. One, because he has been good at taking wickets lately. As a former cricket player, I pay more attention to how he gets wickets: a spinner getting the batter out through the gate bowled, caught at slip, stumped getting to the pitch of the ball, miscuing the ball, and getting caught at mid-off or mid-on. These are the places where a spinner would love to get a dismissal.

When you look at the Australian Test team and the places where they play, where do you think Kuldeep will have an advantage?

If Ashwin is our first choice and Jadeja isn’t available, then Kuldeep and Axar should be our next choices. If they are playing three spinners and Jaddu is available, Kuldeep should play. Don’t worry about the venues or how well our spinners will do there. Take a look at how Kuldeep has taken wickets. In the recent series he has played, whether it was red ball or white ball, most of his dismissals happened within the 30-yard circle. That’s great for a bowler because it shows that your line and length have been very consistent. Kuldeep will be very important for India to beat Australia.

Let’s talk about Yuzvendra Chahal. Is he getting easier to guess?

Any bowler will go through that phase at some point. Chahal is likely in that stage. If Chahal can’t get any playing time in the middle, he should probably ask the team management to let him go play domestic cricket. He needs to play a lot of games to get back into shape. That should be the best way for Chahal to get ready.

Is there something he can work on with his technique?

He should really work on finishing his follow-through, because sometimes he just pushes the ball without giving it any spin. When you slow your arm, the ball automatically spins less, making it much easier for a batsman to catch. Any spinner will become predictable because the batsman will know, “Okay, he’s only doing this [releasing the ball without spin] or he’ll probably go outside the off stump, so if I leave that ball, he’ll come back into the stumps [line],” which is the batsman’s strength.

Chahal needs to work on his follow-through, hitting the right length, which is the line between the fourth and fifth stumps, speeding up his arm, and spinning the ball. Spinning the ball is the most important thing. I have seen him get hit a lot in the last few series because he pushed the ball. The seam turns were flatter, and there was no overspin. Any fingerspinner requires the wrist to move over the top of the seam. If the wrist moves to the side, the spinner will undercut the ball.

Chahal is a spin bowler who attacks. He lost his magic in some way…

He was a spinner who tried to attack. Was.

Everyone gets a little bit of a break. Okay, theek hai, I’ve done well, let me take it easy for a while. As soon as you realise that, the pressure starts to build up on you.

Yuzvendra Chahal
Chahal should really work on finishing his follow-through. Sometimes he just pushes the ball, which makes it easier for batsmen to pick him up.

When Chahal bowls the fourth-stump line, batters start to hit him.

Every ball should be on the line between the fourth and fifth stumps. He throws most of his googlies from the middle stump. From the middle stump, you can’t bowl a googly. Where did Anil Kumble hit his sixes and fours? Fifth post. That’s where you pull a batsman to get him or her through the bat-pad gap. You’ve seen how many times a legspinner has gotten Virat Kohli out in the last few IPLs. Did he get out from a middle-stump line to a googly? No. Fifth stumbling block.

I use the three-T method: technique, tactics, and personality. You know how to play, and you play for your country. But you also need to pay attention to how they act and what they do. That’s how you get rid of a batsman.

Does Chahal need to improve how fast he bowls?

He gets the ball inside more than he does with speed. That’s not allowed. As a real spinner, Kuldeep has been rewarded for getting on the seam.

Would you choose Kuldeep and Chahal to be on your team for the World Cup, which will be held in India later this year?

We’re talking about seven to eight months away. Kuldeep is in a state of complete relaxation. He should be more consistent. He must consider the tactical aspect. He must decide how he will approach each team and venue. The World Cup is being held in India, but each venue has a unique dimension in terms of pitch, soil, and climate. He needs to prepare accordingly.

Will you put Kuldeep in your team of 11 for the World Cup?

Without a doubt.

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De Zorzi now has a chance to become the star he has always wanted to be.




De Zorzi

Tony de Zorzi returned to the Wanderers eight years after he was captain of King Edwards VII, one of Johannesburg’s best schools, and seven years after he led South Africa’s Under-19 team to a World Cup where they were the defending champions but finished in 11th place. He found friends he didn’t know he had.

There were a few of my friends here, and it’s always nice to have my mum watching,” de Zorzi said. “Some people said they were my friends, but I’ve never met them.”

Natasha raised de Zorzi on her own, and he has always wanted to be the best he could be for her. She doesn’t watch him play much anymore because he took the long way to become an international cricket player. He went to the same school as Neil McKenzie and Graeme Smith, then to Pretoria, and finally to Cape Town, which is 1400 kilometres away from where he grew up. In a way, it was good for de Zorzi to play his first Test match on the Highveld and get his first fifty while Natasha was watching.

He said, “She always sits in the same spot, so I knew where she was.” “Since I’m in Cape Town, she hasn’t been able to watch many games. I hope I can get three figures the next time she comes.”

De Zorzi has set high goals for himself. In the last two years, only one of his teammates has scored a hundred at home, and only two others (Sarel Erwee and Kyle Verreynne, neither of whom is playing in this series) have reached 100. But because he has let people down in the past, he knows this is his chance to step up.

“My life has changed a lot since I played for SA under-19,” de Zorzi said. “I was captain, but I wasn’t the star of that side,” he said.

Because Wiaan Mulder did it. When De Zorzi came back from the World Cup for his age group, he had to go back to club cricket and “start over.” He played for the University of Pretoria team, which was led by Kruger van Wyk, who is now the fielding coach. Then he got a job with Northerns, where he kept getting better and better and averaged almost 80 for the second-tier provincial team in the summer of 2016–17. In the summer of 2020, he moved to Western Province, where Ashwell Prince was the head coach. Since then, he has been made captain.

This summer, he is averaging over 100, mostly because of his unbeaten 304 against the Knights, when Gerald Coetzee was part of his attack (though admittedly not many other big names).

“It’s been a long process, and I’m glad it’s come to this,” said de Zorzi. “It also reminds me of where I came from and to not get too far ahead of myself because I had to do a lot of dirty work to get there. Some guys start getting it a little bit earlier. Mine is starting to come true right now.”

After averaging over 48 in three of the last four seasons, de Zorzi was hard to ignore in this Test squad, but it took a change in leadership for that to happen. He got his chance because the new red-ball coach, Shukri Conrad, also acts as a selector when there isn’t a panel. “We knew it would be a new start when the coaches changed,” de Zorzi said. “If everyone took a chance and did well, you knew there would be a new set of eyes and maybe even more chances. That was a lot of fun. Dean Elgar, who was captain at the time, used to say that the number of runs you scored would get you into the team. Guys knew that they had to have a good season if they wanted to move up. There was nothing else to do.”

De Zorzi
De Zorzi is especially good at the cut shot, which is how he scored almost a third of his runs in this innings.

But now that it has, players like de Zorzi need to take control of their space. He showed West Indies’ attack what he was made of in the first Test, and Kyle Mayers saw it. “This guy seems to have everything together,” he said. “He is square of the wicket and strong.”

De Zorzi is very good at the cut shot. In this innings, he got almost a third of his runs with the cut shot. However, the West Indies had already figured him out from the first Test. At the SuperSport Park, they tried to give him less space. De Zorzi said, “They stick to the basics a little bit longer.” “You might get a few less bad balls, but international cricketers who do their homework are going to do it. I could tell they had different plans based on how they bowled to me today compared to how they did it at SuperSport Park. They can make it harder for you to score. And, of course, the intensity is a little bit higher. When I got out, I was really tired. It is not easy.”

But so was de Zorzi. During the free-flowing afternoon session in South Africa, he played well. Natasha sat still in the Memorial Stand the whole time. De Zorzi made his first sign to her when he hit Alzarri Joseph out of the ground with the 82nd ball he faced. She would have been incredibly proud, no doubt. As the pitch got faster and West Indies made a comeback, De Zorzi faced 73 more balls and scored 35 more runs.

They lost five wickets for 64 runs after tea, so the game is now tied. If South Africa can’t score more than 350, West Indies might be able to fight back. If you give up on that, on a pitch that is already starting to turn, the game might be over. Either way, it’s set up to bring in people who didn’t know they liked cricket, especially during a mid-week Test match when only a small part of the stadium is filled. But it’s important. And de Zorzi knows that better than anyone else.

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The collapse that never came at Hagley Oval involving Sri Lanka




Angelo Mathews

The skies are gray and heavy, like a wet blanket that will soon be thrown over the whole series. The field is so full of plants that animals that live in the woods have moved in. The outfield is wet, and sometimes a cold drizzle falls on biting winds. And while the local bowlers, who are all big and tall, are nimble and strong in their warm-up overs on the practice pitches, the Sri Lankan batters, who are covered in wool sweaters, face throwdowns and look like they are about to be sacrificed on an altar of seam bowling.

Get the coin. Put Sri Lanka in. Watch the ball jump gleefully off the edges of the bats and into the hands of the slip cordon as batter after batter falls like marionettes, the scoreboard showing 45-3, then 67-5, and a few swipes at the end pushing the total just over 100. Here are the usual parts of Sri Lanka’s day one story on a ground like Hagley Oval.

When they were here before, they didn’t have to bat first, but they were still out after 138 runs. The last time, they had players like Kumar Sangakkara on their team, but they still lost by 104 runs. Unless Sri Lanka pulls off a near-miracle in the second innings, which they do from time to time, these are game-changing messes. (Then New Zealand will go up to bat and put on half a million for six while smiling politely, which will only show how bad they were before.)

Then this happened. Four years after the last time they played a Test in New Zealand, where they were beaten by 423 runs at this same site, they had an amazing day of batting. Of defensive play that was mostly okay and technique that was pretty good. Had Sri Lanka’s batters done the work to figure out where their off stump was before they started a Test on foreign soil? Any Sri Lanka fan should feel a tear of pure pride just thinking about it.

Kusal Mendis, who may have been the best player in the XI, took the lead. The most important part of his 87 out of 83 was how he judged length on a surface that was a bit bumpy. When it was on a good length, he defended close to his body, almost always with soft hands, so that when the ball came in and took the edge, it bounced short of the slips. Most of the time, though, he defended inside the line, mostly using his bat to block balls that could hit him in front of the wickets or get past him to the wickets.

When New Zealand’s bowlers bowled fuller and tried hard to get an edge that could be caught, Mendis gave his all to his front-foot strokes, sometimes driving it with authority, other times sending it squirting off the face of the bat through backward point, and other times flicking it deliciously off his pads.

Angelo Mathews
Although Angelo Mathews mainly scored 38 out of his 47 runs through the leg side, his driving down the ground was particularly beautiful to watch.

He got 50 runs off of 40 balls, but New Zealand’s bowlers didn’t have a great morning. 44 of those runs came from fours. He and Dimuth Karunaratne, who was just as steady but less aggressive against balls that could be hit, put together a 137-run partnership at the second wicket that was the key to Sri Lanka’s progress on day one. They would get out in consecutive overs, but when they did, they were often replaced by better batsmen.

Angelo Mathews waited for the shorter balls and scored 38 of his 47 runs through the leg side. He also hit a couple of fours off his pads when the ball was close to him. Dinesh Chandimal liked to hit the ball to the off side, and he did so six times. As Dhananjaya de Silva batted with Kasun Rajitha near the end of the day, he made boundaries whenever he could.

Their scoring areas were different, but almost all of Sri Lanka’s top seven batters covered the stumps, didn’t rush at balls until they were set, didn’t mind when deliveries beat their bats, and didn’t chase seaming balls outside their stumps. Even when bowled at (mostly by Tim Southee and Matt Henry), they didn’t give up, which is something they often do when the ball is turning.

Given Sri Lanka’s long tail and lack of experience in the field, which New Zealand can easily take advantage of, 305 for 6 is not a great first-day score. It is possible that New Zealand will win the match. But given the situation, Sri Lanka were good enough. And it’s not often that you can say that about Sri Lanka on the first day of a match in New Zealand.

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India’s trust is rewarded by Bharat’s skill behind the stumps.




KS Bharat

Sometimes almost everything that makes up a Test match is found in a single ball. One of those balls was the one that knocked Pat Cummins out of the game on the third morning in Delhi. It had the blunt precision of the Indian spinners, the deadly glide that made this pitch so hard to play on, and the sweep, a high-risk, high-reward shot so controversial that a thousand autopsies were written about it.

And there was one more thing. After the ball slipped under Cummins‘ bat, it hit the inside edge of the outside stump, bounced off the side of the middle stump and landed in KS Bharat’s gloves.

The ball didn’t spin sharply, but it didn’t go all the way with the arm either. After it was thrown, it straightened just a little. It also stayed low before bouncing off the stumps twice. Bharat had followed the ball all the way, even as Cummins took a wild swing, and he had collected it cleanly.

It didn’t matter because the ball was dead by the time he reached it, but he did a good job with his glove.

Later that day, when India had lost four wickets and were 27 runs away from their target, Bharat was moved up the order and scored a brilliant unbeaten 23 off 22 balls, including three perfectly timed fours to cover and a solid knock with a slog-swept six.

In his first two Test innings, Bharat had scored 8 and 6 in the first two games of this series. He must have felt much better after that start because he played on Sunday. Some watching from the outside might have even thought he was trying to save his career with that performance.

But India probably wouldn’t have seriously considered taking Bharat out of the game after Delhi, even if he had done nothing in the second innings. They probably know that anyone can score a number of low scores on difficult pitches, and they may have seen glimpses of Bharat’s counter-attacking potential during his brief stint with the Indian national team

In Nagpur, Bharat got rid of Marnus Labuschagne with a sharp stumping.

It took a long time for these things to happen.

In May 2018, Indian senior team officials selected Bharat as the goalkeeper for the four-day tour and Rishabh Pant as the goalkeeper for the 50-over tour. The Indian senior team was also touring England that summer, so the A tour was a shadow tour. At the time, officials felt that Bharat was India’s best pure goalkeeper and Pant was an exciting batsman whose glovework needed work.

When Wriddhiman Saha got injured and could not join the England tour, India included Pant in its Test team in place of Bharat. The genius is going in his own direction.

But Bharat remained an important player in India’s second team. Since the beginning of 2018, he has played 19 first-class matches for the India A team, which is more than any other player except Abhimanyu Easwaran, who bats first. In those India A matches, he has scored 971 runs at a rate of 48.55, including three hundreds.

Last year, when India took Saha out of its test team, Bharat took his place. So it made sense that Bharat made his debut when Pant was injured. The Indian team management may have been tempted by Ishan Kishan’s competing claims, but they chose Bharat at the start of this Border-Gavaskar series.

At the start of the 2019-20 home season, India dropped Pant from the Test programme XI and brought back Saha for a series against South Africa. Virat Kohli described Saha as the best goalkeeper in the world and they felt his good glove work was important on India’s winding tracks. They felt that Pant still needed to work on his goalkeeping. Pant worked on it and became a world-class goalkeeper when India played England in early 2021. Until then, however, Saha was still the first choice for home games.

At the start of this series between India and Australia, the same idea was in play. India appreciates how good Bharat is with the bat, but they know he is their best goalkeeper when Pant is not around.

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