India skipper Virat Kohli declared an all-out spin war against Australia, saying the quality of his bowlers gives him confidence for the one-day series starting today.
Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal add variety to the Indian attack that saw pacemen Mohamed Shami and Umesh Yadav return for the five-match series.
While Australia captain Steve Smith is already focusing on Kuldeep in the first game, Kohli hinted at unleashing two wrist spinners in Chennai.
Kuldeep made an instant impression against Australia, taking four wickets in his Test debut in India’s series-clinching win in Dharamsala this year.
The 22-year-old Kuldeep is likely to pair up with Chahal at the MA Chidambaram Stadium with left-arm spinner Axar Patel nursing a sprained ankle.
“It is a great advantage to have two wrist spinners in your team, especially when both are so different to each other and both can pick up wickets in the middle overs,” Kohli said Saturday.
“It is important to keep picking wickets and have breakthroughs throughout. Those two guys have provided that to us and they are very confident coming into this series.
“They are in a zone where they don’t mind getting hit as long as they pick up 3-4 wickets which I think is a very good space to be in and it’s something that gives me as a captain lot of confidence,” he added.
While Yadav remains the worry for Australia, India are fretting over Shikhar Dhawan’s replacement after the opener was released from the squad to be with his ailing wife.
Kohli hinted Ajinkya Rahane would partner Rohit Sharma at the top of the batting order.
“I am not saying it’s easy,” Kohli said. “Ajinkya Rahane plays in middle order in ODIs and tests and then he has opened in the ODIs as well.”
“Now we are backing Rahane at the top of the order so he knows his plans are clear.”
Australia called in local left-arm wrist spinner KK Jiyas, who played for Delhi in the Indian Premier League, to help prepare for Kuldeep’s guile during net practice in Chennai.
“They’re different (left-arm wrist spinners) so it’s good to be able to get someone who bowls a bit of that,” Smith told reporters earlier.
“He (Kuldeep) 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,” he added.
Smith, who is coming out of a tough Test series against Bangladesh that ended 1-1, is prepared for another spin challenge on the subcontinent’s pitches.
The star batsman said top-order runs would be key in what he expected would be a high-scoring affair.
“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,” 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.”
Smith, without revealing too much about his team, said that despite losing opener Aaron Finch to injury, they would continue with Travis Head at number four.
While Australia also play three Twenty20 matches in India before moving on to the Ashes series against England, Smith said the team had the 2019 World Cup firmly in mind.
“We had a chat about it the other day. We have about 30 ODI games before the WC. For us it is about trying to find the right group of players to fill all slots,” he said.
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