In the recently-concluded three-match ODI series, which India lost 0-3, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal were out-bowled by South Africa’s troika of spinners, Tabraiz Shamsi, Keshav Maharaj and part-timer Aiden Markram.
The 35-year old Ashwin, who was brought back to the ODI squad for the first time since 2017, picked up only one wicket in two matches before he was replaced by Jayant Yadav in the third ODI. On the other hand, Yuzvendra Chahal also picked up only two wickets and struggled to cause any threat to opposition batters.
The former India off-spinner feels both Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal took a defensive approach against South Africa batters and said there is no harm in trying out Chahal and Kuldeep, who haven’t played together since the 2019 World Cup, again in ODIs.
“I think these two guys (Ishant Sharma and Ashwin) have done really well for Team India, whether you talk about Test cricket or ODIs. With all due respect to R Ashwin, I think he is a champion bowler, but in ODI cricket, I feel, it’s time India start looking for an option, maybe someone who can take the ball in as well as out,” Harbhajan told India Today.
“Someone like Kuldeep Yadav could be a great option. Why don’t we go back to the KulCha combination and see what they can bring to the table? They won games for India. It will be a good thing to go back to them.
“R Ashwin and Yuzi Chahal played in the South Africa series. They didn’t create too many opportunities with the ball, they were a bit defensive with their approach. There were times when they could have attacked the opposition by putting in another slip or another man catching in,” he added.
Harbhajan admitted that the pitches were not that spin-friendly in the South Africa series but he believes bowlers need to create opportunities in order to take wickets in the middle overs.
“And of course, the wickets were very, very true. There is no doubt about it. But no matter how the wickets are, if you’re playing in the World Cup against any opposition, your job is to take wickets in the middle overs. It will come down to how you create opportunities as a bowler,” he said.
“You need someone like Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal bowling in tandem. You can also bring in another x-factor, someone like Varun Chakravarthy, there is no harm trying him again. You played him in those 2-3 games in the World Cup and you decided okay, he is not good enough,” he added.
Elaborating on the need to pick up wickets regularly in the middle-overs in ODI cricket, the former cricketer said the team is not going to win many games without taking wickets in the middle-overs.
“We are missing that spark in the middle-overs where people are going for wickets rather than waiting for things to happen. When KulCha played together, they were brilliant for the team in the middle-overs. Whenever they played together, they picked wickets and won games for India.
“I don’t know why they fell apart, why they were not given the opportunities after the World Cup. Maybe it’s time to bring them back or maybe some other X-factor who can take wickets in the middle-overs rather than just doing the containing work,” said Harbhajan.
“If you don’t take wickets in the middle-overs, I don’t think you are going to win many games. It’s also important to take wickets with the new ball which we were not capable of enough in the series in South Africa,” he added.
India are now scheduled to play ODIs against a visiting West Indies side from February 6 to 11 in Ahmedabad.