In the world of cricket, evolution is constant, and teams must adapt to new challenges. For India, the threat of left-arm pace has long been formidable, but a recent addition to the repertoire of challenges is the emergence of left-arm spin. During the third Super Four match of the 2023 Asia Cup in Colombo, Sri Lankan spinner Dunith Wellalage, specializing in left-arm orthodox spin, left a lasting impact on the star-studded Indian batting lineup.
Dunith Wellalage, a 20-year-old talent, showcased his prowess by securing a maiden five-wicket haul during the match. This remarkable achievement was even more impressive, considering that he had made his debut for Sri Lanka just a year ago. In only his 13th ODI appearance, Wellalage dismissed key Indian batsmen, including Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, and Hardik Pandya.
Wellalage’s performance exposed a potential vulnerability in the Indian batting order, raising questions about their ability to tackle spin bowling effectively.
Former India batter Gautam Gambhir highlighted a concerning pattern in India’s performances against spin. He pointed out that this wasn’t the first time India had struggled against spinners. He referenced a previous game against Australia, where Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar had caused significant problems for the Indian batting lineup.
Gambhir noted that three of the five dismissals against Sri Lanka happened because the Indian batsmen were committed on their front foot. He emphasized that adapting to spin, especially when the ball grips, is crucial for success.
“This is becoming a pattern. You remember that match against Australia in Chennai when the ball was gripping a bit and India were chasing some 260 odd runs against spinners like Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar. And we couldn’t chase it. Whenever the ball grips, we struggle and we don’t even know whether we can take the game deep. This is not a 350-run wicket…it’s of 270. Imagine if in 40 overs you are three down for 160 or 170, then when the ball grips, it is very important for the batters to adjust. Virat Kohli and KL Rahul’s were soft dismissals, but rest were beaten by the front foot. Rohit Sharma was beaten by pace, Gill by…that was a brilliant ball. You expect better from Indian batters,” he said.
Gambhir explained that Wellalage’s effectiveness lay in the angle he created while bowling, often delivering the ball wider from the crease. This angle made it difficult for the Indian batsmen to play off the front foot, testing both edges of the bat.
“As a batsman we often try to play the angle, but if the ball spins from there then things become difficult. If you deliver it closer to the wicket then it becomes easier, but when you deliver it wider from the crease then it becomes difficult. And that is why it is necessary to play it off the backfoot rather than front foot, where both the edges are tested. Look at Hardik’s dismissal. And you mentioned (Ajantha) Mendis…he had carrom ball and we did not even know how those deliveries would behave. But these were proper left-arm spin deliveries,” he explained.
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Gambhir offered a critique of Shubman Gill’s dismissal, stating that although the delivery might have seemed challenging, Gill should have played it towards mid-off or the bowler instead of going for mid-on. This error in shot selection led to his downfall.
“Gill could have defended that ball. You cannot say that it was an unplayable delivery. Look at the bat face, it is towards the leg side… towards mid-on. Against such deliveries, you should always play it towards mid-off or towards the bowler. The moment you go for mid-on you are giving the chance for an outside edge,” Gambhir concluded.
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