Kuldeep in focus as Australia wary of spin challenge

Steven Smith, the Australia captain, feels spin could have an important bearing on how the vital middle overs pan out in the upcoming ODI series against India, and he and his team will be keeping a particularly close eye on left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav.

Speaking in Chennai, and on the even of the first ODI, Smith said: “Spin has always played a pretty big part in ODIs particularly in these conditions. I’d say it’ll play a reasonable part throughout this series too, just to change things up and take the pace off the ball and things like that.”

Smith acknowledged the difficulty in picking Kuldeep’s left-arm wristspin; it’s a view shared by his opposite number Virat Kohli. With 11 wickets from seven games at an economy of less than four, Kuldeep has already proved to be an influential presence, particularly in the middle stages of a game. Smith and his men know that only too well, especially after Kuldeep burst through their middle order on debut in Dharamsala.

This time, though, they don’t want any nasty surprises. S Sriram, the former India batsman and Australia’s spin consultant, has flown in left-arm wristspinner KK Jiyas from Kerala to bowl to Australia’s batsmen at the nets. Known as the “Kerala Maxwell” for his resemblance to the Australian, Jiyas was picked by Delhi Daredevils ahead of IPL 2015. Over the last couple of days in Chennai, he has helped the likes of Smith, David Warner, Travis Head and Marcus Stoinis simulate batting against Kuldeep.

“They have got Kuldeep Yadav in their squad and probably is likely to play,” Smith said. “There is a chance to train against someone that bowls the same. There isn’t too many [left-arm wristspinners] around the world, they’re different so it’s good to be able to get someone who bowls a bit of that.

“He [Kuldeep] has played a bit since then [the Dharamsala Test]. A few of the guys played against him in the IPL and saw what he did in Sri Lanka as well. He is a good, young talent and can be difficult to pick at times. He’s someone who you have to watch really closely. Hopefully we can put him under pressure early in his spell and try and take him for as many as we can.”

In 2013, when Australia last played an ODI series in India, five of the six completed games had totals in excess of 300 being piled up. Smith, however, wasn’t entirely sure if there would be a repeat of that this time around. Ashton Agar had, in fact, suggested that the slowness of the Chennai outfield might mitigate boundary-scoring to an extent in the first ODI.

“Every ground is going to be different. All the wickets are different,” Smith said. “I think it’s about summing things up quickly at every ground. I couldn’t tell you whether I think it is going to be a run-fest like it was last time. It just depends on wickets really.”

With Aaron Finch ruled out due to injury for at least the first few games, David Warner will have a new opening partner. Smith said Head was a “good chance” to bat at No. 4, which would mean Hilton Cartwright will likely open, despite scoring a duck in the practice game against Board President’s XI. Smith, though, recognised the need to stick to proven ODI templates, and ensure that at least one of the top-order batsmen did the heavy lifting. With the skies remaining overcast, he said the conditions would eventually have a big say in the composition of the final XI.

“I think we have the guys to do that. It’s important in this country, in any country, in one-day cricket that someone in the top four makes a big score and sets the team up,” he said. “We saw that the last time we came here in 2013 it was a run-fest where 350 was around par. If the wickets are the same, you need someone in the top four to make a really big score.

“We have got a spinning allrounder, we’ve got allrounders that take the pace off the ball and things like that. We have got a few different options but we will go in with what we think is best for the conditions. We’re not going to name our team today. We’re going to have a look again tomorrow and see what we think is the best XI. There is a bit of a weather around, might be a bit of rain around tomorrow as well. Gives us a chance to have a look at that and then we will be able to name our XI for tomorrow.”

With less than two years to go for the World Cup in England, Smith was aware that every ODI served as a preparatory exercise to zoom in on the right group of personnel. “We had a chat about it the other day. We have about 30 ODI games before the World Cup,” he said. “For us it is about trying to find the right group of players to fill all slots. Hopefully this group here can go a long way into filling those spots and play some really good cricket in the next five games here, and in the one-dayers [leading up] to the World Cup.

“As a team we want to win major tournaments and we are always looking ahead to ensure we are in the best possible position to do so. It is another step towards that. [The] conditions are obviously slightly different to what they will be in England. But I think it is a good opportunity to put their names up there and hopefully win some games for Australia. We are here to try and win the series. That is the main objective.”

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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