Axar Patel hasn’t always been up to speed in this World Cup, giving away 40 runs from 3.2 overs against Zimbabwe and leaking 21 runs from a solitary over against Pakistan, although he had a good game against the Netherlands.
Moreover, Axar is not always obliged to build its full quota, so India now needs a specialist like leggie Yuzvendra Chahal? Australia is, after all, the land of leg-spin, and spinners who take the ball away from right-handers are gradually coming into their own in this tournament.
So where does Chahal, who has been a mere passenger so far, figure in India’s plans? Or is the team content to instead step up the batting with Axar’s presence?
The catch is that the matches in Adelaide in which s pen had a say were morning matches, while India will play England in the evening under lights, which again complicates things when it comes to picking the perfect XI for the semi-final. In the one evening match that India have already played here, against Bangladesh, they found the ball well on the bat under lights.
Coach Rahul specifically asked if Chahal will be played in Adelaide Dravid kept his options open. “We’ve got a completely open mind. Anyone coming into the 15 is not going to make us any weaker, the kind of squad we’ve picked. We’ll have to go there and see. I’ve got some of the games (in Adelaide ) looked at and I know the tracks were slow and they gripped and they twisted a bit, but then we might be playing on a whole new strip in Adelaide.
“The strip we played on against Bangladesh didn’t turn. So if it’s slow, we’ll play according to the situation. If we think it might play differently, we’ll have to put a squad together to match that.”
Asked if there were concerns about Axar’s bowling, Dravid said: “In a couple of matches. But he has also had good matches. Again, that’s the nature of this tournament, this format. He has a very good bowling against Bangladesh bowl just before the rain breaks. Yes, he would have liked better days, but … you can be taken apart.”
India’s one all-match opener, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, had a good game against Zimbabwe at the MCG (3/22 from his four) and said he was already looking forward to Adelaide and the England game. “Palettes are not something I always go through, it’s about what comes out. In the back of my mind I also wanted to think about the next game … you know what you can expect (there) so there were a few things in my head that I wanted to try.”
Asked to elaborate on bowling in Adelaide, Ashwin said: “We have to understand that we are playing in different conditions. We will play the night game. . . in the last night game we played, the ball was sliding nicely for the team batting second. So we cannot go in with any preconceived notions. The curators also know how to prepare a sheet for the semi-final.”
It is clear that India is keeping all options open on the spin front.