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Indian captains and their go-to spin twins


Spin_bowlers_Yuzvendra_Chahal_Kuldeep_Yadav_India_CricketThe Indian team has always relied on their spinners. Famously in the 1970s, India would often play with 4 spinners. Since then, cricket has undergone many transformations.

Ganguly and Dhoni are India’s most successful captains while Virat Kohli is all set to re-write the history as batsman and perhaps as a captain as well. One common thing between these 3 is that they have enjoyed the services of 2 quality spinners during their tenure as captain. These spinners played key roles in the success of Ganguly and Dhoni as captains and it has continued for Virat Kohli. Let’s take a look at these successful Indian captains and their go-to spin twins.

1. Virat Kohli - Yuzvendra Chahal & Kuldeep Yadav

Virat Kohli took over from MS Dhoni as India’s captain in all formats in January 2017. Given Dhoni’s success in limited overs cricket, the bar was already set very high for Virat Kohli. Six months before that a young leg-spinner, Yuzvendra Chahal, debuted for India. Six months after Kohli took over, another youngster made his debut for India, Kuldeep Yadav, who had the rare skill of bowling left arm unorthodox or Chinaman.

India lost the Champions Trophy final in 2017. Together, Ashwin and Jadeja gave away 137 runs in the final as Pakistan piled up a mammoth 338 for four in their 50 overs. That was the point when the selectors decided to include the 2 wrist spinners in India’s limited overs squad. It was huge boost for Virat Kohli as he got new 2 spinners in his bowling arsenal. Since then, India has not lost an ODI or a T20 series.

Initially, the duo got very few chances to play together. However, 2018 has been fruitful for the young wrist spinners. India comprehensively defeated South Africa 5-1 in an ODI series. It was first time that Kuldeep and Yuzi played together in all matches of the series. They took 33 wickets between them, and they were the main reason behind India’s victory.

They have continued with this form even in England. This partnership is working nicely for India in limited overs cricket. Chahal also won ICC’s award for T20I performance of the year for his 6/25 against England in 2017. These two young wrist spinners will have a huge role to play in the 2019 World Cup and in defining Virat Kohli’s time as captain.

2. MS Dhoni - R Ashwin & Ravindra Jadeja

By the time MS Dhoni took over captaincy in all 3 formats, Anil Kumble had retired from international cricket and Harbhajan Singh was nearing the tail end of his international career. Dhoni needed a bowling combination which he could use in different conditions.

Ashwin’s emergence as off spinner pushed out Harbhajan, whose stock balls were no longer threatening and his doosras were no longer a mystery. Dhoni liked to have variety in his bowling line up, so playing Harbhajan and Ashwin together was not an option. At that time, Jadeja emerged as his go-to left arm spinner. Both Ashwin and Jadeja first emerged as useful bowlers in limited overs cricket.

After the 2011 World Cup, the duo became India’s frontline spinners in all formats of the game. Between 2011 and 2015 Jadeja picked up 93 wickets in 71 matches and Ashwin picked up 94 from 74 matches. They played instrumental roles in winning matches in all 3 formats for India. When India won the Champions Trophy in 2013, Jadeja was 1st and Ashwin was 6th in the list of highest wicket takers of the tournament. In August 2013, Jadeja topped the ICC's ODI bowling rankings, becoming the first Indian to do so since Anil Kumble in 1996.

The Ashwin-Jadeja combination was very useful for MS Dhoni. He won many major tournaments in that time. The highlights were 2013 Champions Trophy, the 4-0 series victory against Australia, 1 IPL title and 2 Champions League T20 titles. In a press conference after stepping down as captain, Dhoni said, “Ashwin bailed me out in a lot of situations”.

Their numbers in Test cricket have been really good. Both of them have become Test specialists and are almost out of the competition to secure a spot in the ODI team for the 2019 World Cup. In Test cricket, the combination of Jadeja-Ashwin is still working for India. In the 2016-17 season, they made a new record of most wickets taken by a bowling pair in a season. They picked up 153 wickets between them in just 13 matches. Though their bowling may have lost the variety that made them threatening in limited overs cricket, they still have the discipline in line and length, which Virat Kohli will be looking to use to win more Tests.

3. Sourav Ganguly - Anil Kumble & Harbhajan Singh

At the turn of 21st century, Sourav Ganguly had been appointed as India’s captain, Anil Kumble had established himself as India’s premier bowler and Harbhajan Singh was an emerging cricketer with the unique skill of deceiving batsman with his ‘doosra’.

Initially, Ganguly preferred to play with only 1 spinner, which meant Kumble and Harbhajan rarely got a chance to bowl in tandem. Yet they delivered individual performances to win matches for India. One of the most iconic moments was the Border-Gavaskar trophy in 2001, which was a turning point for Indian cricket. It redefined Ganguly as captain and Harbhajan as a serious asset to India’s spin bowling. In that series, Harbhajan Singh picked up 32 wickets, including a hat-trick, and won the Man of the Series award.

Soon, India started playing both Kumble and Harbhajan together in the playing XI. By the time Kumble retired in 2008, the duo had played 54 Test matches together, 22 of them under Ganguly. They were the backbone of the Indian bowing line up. In the 54 tests they played together, they took 501 wickets between them. The partnership continued until Kumble’s retirement in 2008.

Their impact was more in Tests over ODIs. Of the Tests they played together, India won 15 and lost just 5. Rahul Dravid, who succeeded Ganguly as captain, was also one the beneficiary of this duo’s consummate spin bowling abilities. Kumble went on to become India’s highest wicket taker in Test cricket while Harbhajan ranks 3rd in that list.


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