Asia Cup: There's still time to replace Axar Patel with a specialist in India's World Cup squad

On Tuesday in the India-Sri Lanka game, Axar Patel was the only spinner who failed to turn the ball on that rank-turner

By Anis Sajan

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India's Mohammed Siraj (right) celebrates a wicket with Axar Patel. — AFP
India's Mohammed Siraj (right) celebrates a wicket with Axar Patel. — AFP

Published: Wed 13 Sep 2023, 10:46 PM

India are suddenly looking a very solid team after two back-to-back wins over Pakistan and Sri Lanka. While India completely outplayed their arch-rivals, the battle against Sri Lanka on a turning track was more intense.

Dunith Wellalage, the 20-year-old spinner, was outstanding for the home team, earning the scalps of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya for a stunning five-wicket haul.

The youngster then revived Lanka's hopes for an improbable win with an unbeaten 42. This young boy is a serious talent.

A classic left-arm spinner who is not afraid to toss the ball up and use the bounce to bamboozle the batters. His maturity belies his age and his batting skills will be invaluable in the lower middle-order for Lanka.

Fans now would be waiting with bated breath to see the return of the injured Wanindu Hasaranga, the star leg-spinner.

If these two can bowl in tandem and get runs consistently, Sri Lanka will fancy their chance against any team on any pitch that offers turn in the World Cup.

Now this brings us to the curious case of India's Axar Patel, the only spinner from either side on Tuesday who failed to turn the ball on that rank-turner.

If not for Axar's crucial 26 runs, India would have struggled to reach the 200-mark against the Wellalage-inspired Lankans.

But he was a complete failure with the ball, giving away 29 runs in his five overs.

Axar has been picked in the Indian World Cup squad as a bowling all-rounder who can be handy with the bat lower down the order.

But his first priority is to bowl and pick wickets but sadly in his last 10 ODIs which were played on spinning conditions, Axar has picked just seven wickets and conceded more than six runs per over.

With the bat, he has managed to score just one half century which came against Bangladesh in a losing cause.

Now if the Indian selectors want a player who can contribute both with the bat and ball, this record looks very ordinary and does not add any value.

Yes, Axar was very good against the Aussies in Test matches with the bat but it was a different format.

So if the selectors are not confident of the top seven contributing with the bat, then why not pick a specialist batsman who can give you runs more consistently?

And if they want to have a bowler who can win you matches with the ball, then why not pick a specialist bowler who can do the job?

Big matches, especially in a World Cup, can be won by a specialist, be a batter or a bowler.

If India feels Axar can do the job that Yuvraj Singh did for Team India in 2011, then it’s not fair because Yuvraj was a rare talent, an explosive batsman who could win matches almost single-handedly and take crucial wickets.

So India need to have clarity of what they want. I believe India need a specialist bowler who can help India defend low totals in a crunch World Cup game.

The team management have time to change their squad until September 28 and it’s not too late to pick that specialist player.


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