The world has witnessed some great spin bowling pairs. When it comes to spinning duos, Ramadhin-Valentine, Qadir-Qasim and Kumble-Harbhajan fall into that elite bracket. The Indian pair of Kumble-Harbhajan formed a formidable duo at the start of the millennium.
Such was their significance that even Ganguly had to confess, 'The biggest problem I had as a captain was to tell either of Kumble or Bhajji that they're not playing the game.'
However, after Kumble's retirement, Harbhajan Singh's wicket taking abilities seemed to have diminished. India struggled to find spinners who could do well consistently. The post-Kumble phase saw various bowlers like Ojha and Mishra shine in the international arena, but their place in the team was always on a temporary basis. It was Ashwin who grabbed eyeballs and was called the next big thing for India in the spin department. He has a number of milestones till date and continues to impress. Jadeja too has thrived on his limited overs success and proved his lethality on tracks that assist spin.
The two have so far taken over 100 wickets together and look good to serve Indian cricket for a long time as a lethal pair. With some inspired performances against South Africa, India will be counting on their bowling in this long home season to do well. Their effectiveness and accuracy on home pitches have been essential. While the Ashwin-Jadeja pair doesn’t have great numbers overseas, they have turned the tide in India's favour numerous times in the subcontinent and on turning tracks.
Since his debut, Ashwin has climbed the ranks and is now India’s frontline spinner across all formats of the game. One of the things that have contributed towards his success has been his control in general and judicious use of the carrom ball, which has helped him baffle batsmen and take wickets.
While there's no doubt that Ashwin has been a world class bowler, he has at times been scrutinised for his performance overseas. As the Windies tour approaches, he would be looking to take a leaf out of his own book. He has been the Man of the Tournament in the last 2 Test series and he doesn't have to look far to back himself. He has got the variations to go after the West Indies batting and spin a web around them.
Jadeja has been a proven match winner for India and has time and again proven his abilities. He has got the scurrying turn and pace in his arm to make life difficult for batsmen. However, he has been quite inconsistent with his lengths and on pitches that don't assist spin.
After being dropped from the team last tear, Jadeja showed tremendous character and stunned everyone with his brilliant bowling in the domestic circuit, claiming 37 wickets in 6 innings. He followed it up with another spectacular performance against South Africa on his comeback with 23 wickets in 4 games.
The duo has faced lots of challenges but what's laudable is that every time they've faced obstacles, they have taken time to reflect and understand their own game and come up with even stronger performances. Also the way they've complemented each other while bowling from opposite ends is worth appreciating.
It might be too early to compare this young duo to two warhorses like Kumble & Harbhajan, but the signs are quite promising.
The Challenges Ahead
Since India plays 12 out of 16 Tests at home, where conditions would be favouring spin, both Jadeja and Ashwin would be eyeing a great season. Success in the Windies will help them overcome their demons. Though the Windies cannot be underestimated under any circumstances, their Test team is a work in progress. The spin duo will be looking to cash in their trump cards to attain success.
Talking about the other challenges, India play the Kiwis as soon as they return from the Caribbean. New Zealand haven't had a great record here in the past, and with India playing at home, you just can't deny them being the favourites. However, there's a possibility that if the duo plays all the matches in West Indies, they might be tired. Hence, it will be interesting to see how they maintain fitness throughout the season.
The Brits will be touring India after 4 years. If there's one team which India has failed to outplay completely, it's England. In their last three series, they have dominated India including their most recent tour of India in 2012. Ashwin and Jadeja will again be crucial if India are to avenge the drubbings.
In February, the Australians will visit for a return tour. While the Indian spinners failed terribly in their tour to Australia, they made Australian batsmen dance to their tunes back at home as they registered a historic whitewash in 2013. With Australia the current reigning Border-Gavaskar Trophy champions, the job doesn't get over here as Ashwin-Jadeja will like to end the fruitful season with a big victory against the mighty Australians.
The West Indies tour would eventually serve as a pioneer to the prolonged home season involving eminent visitors like the Kiwis, the Englishmen and the Aussies later this season. And to achieve glory throughout the season, Ashwin and Jadeja would be crucial in determining India's success.
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