Has India missed a leggie in its attack?

Right-hand wrist spinners have accounted for 654 wickets at 32.59 in South Africa as against left hand unorthodox who have taken 134 at 28.40.
The national selectors, in consultation with the team management, have chosen Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah and the all-rounder in Hardik Pandya as part of the pace-pack for the three-Test series in South Africa to be played at Cape Town, Centurion, and Johannesburg.

The 29-year-old Ishant leads the group with 226 wickets in 79 Test matches, has played five Test matches in South Africa and taken a dozen wickets at a high cost of 54.17. Ishant appeared to have got his lengths right in the recent three-Test series against Sri Lanka.

Yadav has not played in South Africa in a Test match but he is on the threshold of taking his 100th Test wicket. He needs to dismiss one more batsman. Seamer Shami was part of the attack in South Africa four years ago and he is five wickets short of the 100 mark.

These three have adequate experience and have shown the wherewithal to compete. Yadav and Kumar (53 wickets from 19 Tests) have featured in ODIs before in South Africa and would not be totally new to conditions there, but Bumrah who has an awkward, hits the deck and ability to extract lift, and Pandya would be curious to discover South Africa.

If the entire group looks at the Indian fast bowlers display in the previous six tours to South Africa in last 25 years, they would be encouraged and become hopeful of learning a lot and taking wickets.

They have to only look at Javagal Srinath’s rich haul In his three visits to starting from the 1992-93 season, Srinath took 43 wickets. He and his Karnataka ally in Venkatesh Prasad were outstanding on the 1996-97 tour, taking 35 wickets. Indian fast bowlers have taken 170 wickets in 17 Test matches as against 81 by the spinners. What’s significant is that India’s Srinath, Zaheer (30 wickets) and Sreesanth (27 wickets) feature in the top 13 wicket takers among overseas fast-medium bowlers.

Fast bowlers have generally ruled the roost in the 222 Test matches played in South Africa, but the density and texture of the pitch there has also given scope for crafty slow spinners to make a big impact and turn out to be match winners. After its return to mainstream cricket after the apartheid days for 22 years, the calling cards of fast bowlers and their ilk like Makahya Ntini (249 wickets), Dale Steyn (241), Shaun Pollock (235), Alan Donald (177), Jacques Kallis (165), Morne Morkel (122) and Vernon Philander (96) appear predominantly in the achievements chart taking the top seven positions. They are followed by Hugh ‘Toey’ Tayfield, regarded as one among the legendary off-spinners who plied his trade between 1949 and 1958; he took 92 of his 170 Test wickets on home soil.

In recent times though for South Africa, Kagiso Rabada has been in top form with a tally of 61 wickets on home soil at 18.10.

Interestingly, the overseas cricketer who has taken the maximum number of scalps in the Southern Hemisphere country is Shane Warne with 61 wickets at 24.31 from 12 Tests. England’s right-hand fast medium bowler Syd Barnes who played only against Australia and South Africa and sent the ball from seven feet excelled on the matting and turf wickets of South Africa and took 49 wickets in four Test matches of the 1913-14 season. Third on the list is India’s Anil Kumble with 45, and the fourth is the Australian leg-spinner Clarrie Grimmett with 44. They are followed by Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, 41, Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, 35, England’s Stuart Broad 31 and India’s Khan, 30.

The overseas spinners have accounted for 453 wickets at a very expensive 39.15, although Warne managed his 61 wickets at 24.31 and Muralitharan his 35 at 26.03. The South African spinners, post-1992, have taken 259 wickets at 38.87, for an aggregate of 712 at 39.05.

The two spinners in the Indian team are finger spinners R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja; they have played just one Test match each there. But have India missed the trick in somehow finding a place for leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal. Right-hand wrist spinners have accounted for 654 wickets at 32.59 in South Africa as against left hand unorthodox who have taken 134 at 28.40.

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