Kuldeep Yadav (left) and Ravindra Jadeja © PTI
Kuldeep Yadav (left) and Ravindra Jadeja are among the spinners picked for the ODI series against the West Indies © PTI

The ICC World Cup 2015 is slowly drawing near. With an eye on the final squad, India have made an interesting selection ahead of the One-Day International (ODI) series against West Indies. India have rested the finger-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and gone in with two wrist spinners in Amit Mishra and Kuldeep Yadav for the first three ODIs. Shiamak Unwalla ponders over the significance of wrist spin Down Under.

India’s designated spinners For the first three matches of the ongoing five-ODI series against West Indies are Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, and Kuldeep Yadav. Ravichandran Ashwin has been rested, but is expected to be picked for the last two matches.

India’s squad for the ICC World Cup 2015 is still a long way from being selected (though there is a maximum of nine ODIs they can play before the tournament), but if the current signs are anything to go by, then it is likely that India will pick three frontline spinners in their squad. While Jadeja and Ashwin are all but assured of a spot, the inclusion of Mishra and Kuldeep in the current squad raises some interesting questions.

When India triumphed in the World Championship of Cricket in 1985, the then-17 year old Laxman Sivaramakrishnan had been the trump card who helped India to the trophy. His spell of three for 35 in the final had helped India restrict Pakistan to just 176 for nine.

Sunil Gavaskar had also included Ravi Shastri in the squad, much against the judgement of critics. Slow bowlers are more difficult to hit boundaries against on the humongous Australian grounds, ran his logic. However, to base expectations of Indian wrist-spinners based on that performance alone would be foolhardy. Indeed, Indian spinners haven’t fared particularly well in the Australian continent.

Given below is the 14 leading ODI spinners in Australia and New Zealand. Just two Indians feature in the list, with both coming in after No 10:

Name

Type

Period

M

Wickets

Ave

Econ

SR

Shane Warne

Wrist

1993-2005

96

152

24.15

4.12

35.1

Daniel Vettori

Finger

1997-2011

153

148

33.42

4.13

48.5

Muttiah Muralitharan

Finger

1995-2010

60

85

28.16

4.38

38.5

Peter Taylor

Finger

1987-1992

67

83

26.59

4.03

39.5

Brad Hogg

Wrist

2002-2008

52

63

31.26

4.72

39.6

Carl Hooper

Finger

1987-1997

56

46

33.06

4.03

49.2

Shahid Afridi

Wrist

1996-2011

43

45

32.24

4.51

42.8

Greg Matthews

Finger

1984-1993

39

40

31.07

4.18

44.5

Mushtaq Ahmed

Wrist

1990-1997

33

40

30.32

4.3

42.3

Allan Border

Finger

1979-1994

192

39

29.97

4.57

39.2

John Emburey

Finger

1980-1988

23

34

27.94

4.46

37.5

Anil Kumble

Wrist

1994-2005

27

33

32.09

4.51

42.6

Saqlain Mushtaq

Finger

1996-2001

23

31

25.9

4.02

38.6

Ravi Shastri

Finger

1985-1992

28

29

29.41

3.61

48.7

If one splits up the wrist-spinners from the finger-spinners in ODIs in Australia, the results become more comprehensible. First, the wrist-spinners:

Bowler

M

W

Ave

Runs

SR

Balls

Econ

Shane Warne

96

152

24.15

3671

35.1

5335

4.13

Brad Hogg

52

63

31.26

1969

39.6

2495

4.74

Shahid Afridi

43

45

32.24

1451

42.8

1926

4.52

Mushtaq Ahmed

33

40

30.32

1213

42.3

1692

4.30

Anil Kumble

27

33

32.09

1059

42.6

1406

4.52

Total

251

333

28.12

9363

38.6

12854

4.37

And then the finger-spinners:

Bowler

M

W

Ave

Runs

SR

Balls

Econ

Daniel Vettori

153

148

33.42

4946

48.5

7178

4.13

Muttiah Muralitharan

60

85

28.16

2394

38.5

3273

4.39

Peter Taylor

67

83

26.59

2207

39.5

3279

4.04

Carl Hooper

56

46

33.06

1521

39.6

1822

5.01

Greg Matthews

39

40

31.07

1243

44.5

1780

4.19

Allan Border

192

39

29.97

1169

39.2

1529

4.59

John Emburey

23

34

27.94

950

37.5

1275

4.47

Saqlain Mushtaq

23

31

25.90

803

38.6

1197

4.03

Ravi Shastri

28

29

29.41

853

48.7

1412

3.62

Total

641

535

30.07

16085

42.5

22743

4.24

As seen above, there is no evidence to suggest which form of spin — whether wrist or finger — is more successful in Australia. While it is evident that wrist-spinners take wickets more frequently (and at cheaper rates), finger-spinners have had better economy rates.

In fact, with just five-wrist spinners in the top 14, it would seem that finger-spinners are more successful. However, given that at least three of the above-mentioned finger-spinners (Hooper, Border, and Shastri) were batting all-rounders who happened to play a lot of matches in Australia, there is not a whole lot to go by.

The inclusion of Kuldeep and Mishra is encouraging, but one must keep in mind that in a squad of 15, every spot is vital. It would be more prudent to select players who have an excellent chance of playing matches, rather than take a back-up spinner who probably will not feature at all.

Complete coverage of West Indies tour of India 2014

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @ShiamakUnwalla)