Kuldeep Yadav is firmly ahead of veteran Ravichandran Ashwin in the pecking order as India’s frontline spinner on foreign soil, head coach Ravi Shastri asserted, citing his five-wicket haul against Australia in the Sydney Test this year.
Shastri made it clear that going forward, wrist spinners will be in vogue in Test cricket and Kuldeep is “already” ahead of Ashwin and Jadeja as country’s No.1 spinner.
“Already! He plays overseas Test cricket and he gets five wickets, so he becomes our primary overseas spinner. Going ahead, if we have to play one spinner, he is the one we will pick,” Shastri told the ‘Cricbuzz’ website.
“There is a time for everyone (referring to Ashwin’s poor fitness record in 2018). But now Kuldeep is our frontline number one overseas spinner,” he added.
Kuldeep bagged a five-for in the rain-affected Sydney Test and most of the Australian batsmen failed to read him.
“I was very impressed with the way Kuldeep bowled in Sydney. Even in Test cricket, it is going to be the age of wrist spin, especially in overseas Test cricket. The way he bowled in Sydney, he becomes our number one spinner in overseas Test cricket,” Shastri said.
Cheteshwar Pujara was a revelation during the tour of Australia where he played a massive role in the country’s first ever 2-1 series win, fetching the player of the series award for it.
However, the same Pujara was dropped for the first Test against England in Birmingham and Shastri revealed how a minor glitch in his stance was corrected, which wasn’t entirely technical.
“It wasn’t a technical issue. It was in his posture and the way he stood at the crease. It was a small thing, which can happen when you have played day in, and day out. I felt it was an issue,” Shastri said.
“We had to factor in if we wanted to take the risk of that first Test or get him right for the next 7-8 Tests. Or, take that chance of playing in all 8 Tests and he doesn’t have enough time to sort that,” the coach, known for his cricketing acumen, said.
According to Shastri, the problem crept in when Pujara was playing county cricket in 2018 and it was a “conscious decision” to drop Pujara in England.
“And I will do that again if I get the results like the way I have,” said the straight-talking coach.
Since coming back from Australia, Pujara has played three back to back first-class games for Saurashtra, including the ongoing Ranji final in Nagpur and the coach feels it’s time he takes some rest.
“…I feel like calling him from New Zealand and saying, enough Puji, take off your pads now and sit down!”
“And like I said earlier, he is the quintessential professional. That guy, when he gets in, he smells the leather. He doesn’t let the bowler make him smell the leather. Chin music is different, when the bowler makes the ball go past you,” he said.
And then there was an inimitable Shastri comment about how Pujara goes about his job.
“Pujara smells the leather, whether he is playing forward or backward defensive. No one smells the leather in defence better than Pujara. You can ask him if it is Christian Dior or Armani.”
An unabashed fan of skipper Virat Kohli, Shastri compared him to cult cricketing figures like Sir Vivian Richards and the iconic former Pakistan captain Imran Khan.
“The closest I have seen to the great man. Virat is in your face, he wants to dominate and has a work ethic like no one else. Whether it comes to discipline, training, sacrifice or self-denial, it is unbelievable.
“I think India is lucky to have a leader of that sort. He reminds me of Imran Khan in many ways – in the way he sets the example and sets the standards, and goes about defining it in his own way and leading from the front,” Shastri said.
However, Shastri is confident that Kohli will evolve further as a captain.
“As far as I am concerned, tactically, there is still room for plenty of improvement as captain. He has gotten better and better, and better, and I thought in the Australian Test series, tactically he outsmarted Australia.
“I still see more room across formats for him to evolve. As a captain, Virat will evolve further,” said Shastri.