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Yuzvendra Chahal of India during the first ODI between India and West Indies at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad last year. Image Credit: Agencies

Dubai: A World Cup is a time that unleashed several heartaches to many deserving candidates in the annals of Indian cricket. The reason is plain and simple. Only 15 members could be fitted into the squad while thousands play the sport in the country. In bilateral series, the numbers could go up to 17 and during Covid, it went even further up, but International Cricket Council events, read World Cups, have a limit on the numbers. Rohit Sharma too has experienced the ignominy of being left out of the 2011 World Cup-winning Indian squad.

Sadly, the Indian skipper couldn’t stop others from experiencing the same pain when the Men In Blue named their squad in their bid to regain the crown that they last won in 2011. Led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India defeated Sri Lanka in the final in Mumbai, which brought to an end a 28-year wait for the second world title.

There are at least five deserving candidates missing the bus for the 2023 50-over World Cup. Sanju Samson, Ravichandran Ashwin, Tilak Varma and Prasidh Krishna must have felt disappointed in not getting a spot in the 15-member squad for the showpiece. But leaving out Yuzvendra Chahal raises the biggest debate among the fans as the leg-spinner is a proven match-winner.

Match winner

“Surprised not to see Yuzvendra Chahal in the World Cup squad for Team India. pure Match winner,” former Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Sigh tweeted on the Haryana leg-spinner’s exclusion. It is understandable to go for a pace-oriented bowling attack if the World Cup matches are being held in Australia, where the fast bowlers have a bigger role to play. Even then Chahal was part of the Indian squad for the Twenty20 World Cup Down Under last year and this year the ODI World Cup is being played in India, which is known to be favouring the spinners more than the pacers.

India have picked five fast bowlers in their 15-member team with three spinners, predominantly left-armers, with great emphasis on all-rounders. Certainly the team has one or two fast bowlers too many!

One could argue that the 2011 World Cup-winning team also had four fast bowlers when the showpiece was played in the subcontinent. However, the Indian team had many batting all-rounders, who could play the part-time spinners role to perfection along with regular spinners Harbhajan, Ashwin and Piyush Chawla. That includes Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag and Yusuf Pathan, not including Sachin Tendulkar, who could bowl both off-spin and leg-spin.

Unfortunately, India have not groomed enough all-rounders with Shardul Thakur and Axar Patel finding their spots as they could lend stability to the batting down the order.

Breaking partnerships

In whiteball cricket, Shane Warne showed the world that leg-spinners are a potent weapon in the shorter formats. The Australian legend gave the spinners a new lease of life when he showed the potency of the wrist spinners, who could get wickets with their subtle variations in pace and spin, and breaking partnerships when the batters go after them.

Picking wickets are regular intervals, especially in the middle overs, will halt the teams from finishing with the extra 30-odd runs and it is where Chahal, who has played 72 ODIs and claimed 121 wickets, would have come in handy, bowling tight overs and creating the pressure.

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There are at least five deserving candidates missing the bus for the 2023 50-over World Cup including Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal. Image Credit: Agencies

Thought process

Chahal, bowling in tandem with Ashwin, have mastered the art of creating holes in the rivals’ ship when it is at cruising mode during the Rajasthan Royals’ march in both 2022 and 2023 seasons.

It is strange that 33-year-old leg-spinner has not been among the India’s grand plans since the beginning of the year. The fourth-highest wicket-taker for India with 37 wickets in 23 ODIs since the 2019 World Cup, Chahal has just played two ODIs this year, claiming three wickets.

A loud and clear message on the team’s thought process. It still takes a lot of convincing that leaving him is the right choice.

India have been without a major crown since 2018, when they lifted the Asia Cup in the UAE after defeating Bangladesh in the final. With so much at stake, one gets the feeling that the absence of wily Chahal might cause the Men in Blue the heartache at home. Hope it is not as the millions are watching eagerly every moment of Team India’s fortunes