On the evidence of the playing XI for the first Test, after all, it seems like Kuldeep isn’t quite in the reckoning for the time being. The left-arm wrist-spinner found himself excluded once again as Kohli’s men went in with R Ashwin, Shahbaz Nadeem and Washington Sundar as the three spinners. Nadeem was drafted into the squad at the eleventh hour after Axar patel complained of knee pain during training on Thursday. And yet, Kuldeep, who took a five-wicket haul in his last Test in Sydney more than two years ago, was overlooked.
As Kohli had indicated on Thursday, the preference seems to be to pick spinners who can contribute with the bat. “We will try to have guys who have the ability to contribute with the bat. That has been the pattern for success for us in home conditions,” he had said. Perhaps someone needs to remind him that Kuldeep has a First Class hundred to his name.
While Ashwin is obviously a certainty with his bowling alone, the batting ability of Washington Sundar perhaps went in his favour. And Axar, too, would have played had he not been injured. With Axar unavailable, another left-arm finger spinner in Nadeem came in.
Although Nadeem did not hit his lengths on Friday and was guilty of bowling too many short balls, he is usually very accurate. The Indian spin attack could have perhaps done with more variety on a placid surface.
Even Jasprit bumrah seemed to agree at the end of the day’s proceedings that Kuldeep could have been given a go. “In hindsight, it is easier to say things, let’s see how things go in the next few days and then we can discuss all these,” Bumrah quipped after a hard day’s work.
For Kuldeep, one can’t help but feel that his confidence has taken a further beating. Ever since the 2019 IPL, he hasn’t quite been at his best and hasn’t been helped by the fact that he is on the fringes in all three formats. He might have hoped that once Ashwin got injured in Australia, he would get his chance in Brisbane. Stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane even said that he gave it a good thought before drafting in Washington Sundar from the reserves.
But on Friday he was ignored in spin-friendly conditions at the Chepauk.
Former India left-arm spinner Venkatapathy Raju sympathized with Kuldeep’s plight. “I would have played Ashwin, Kuldeep and Washington as my three spinners. It is a mystery why Kuldeep is not playing. He has been a matchwinner,” Raju told TOI on Friday.
According to Raju, Kuldeep will be better served by going back to domestic cricket and getting some game-time to get back into form in case India don’t see him as part of their plans.