India’s spinners bide their time as pace rules in New York

India picked four spinners in their squad of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024, but it has been pace that has been the key part of their attack in the opening three matches of the campaign.

India captain Rohit Sharma opted to use just three overs of spin against USA on Wednesday in the Group A contest at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, as once again it was pace bowling that proved most impactful on the low-scoring New York surface.

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All three of those overs came from Axar Patel, and in total India have bowled just nine overs of spin combined across their three matches at the ground – against USA, Pakistan and Ireland – with Axar bowling six of those and Jadeja sending down just three.

It’s an unusual state of affairs for a squad that contains four front-line spinners, with Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal reduced to spectator roles so far at the tournament, despite both coming into the World Cup off the back of superb Indian Premier League campaigns.

But that will surely change, with India heading down to Florida for their final Group A fixture against Canada before moving to the more spin-friendly conditions of the Caribbean for the second round and, potentially, knockout stages.

And with that change of venue, expect to see a change in the make-up of the Indian bowling attack.

“It will depend on the opponents; it will depend on the surface,” India bowling coach Paras Mhambrey said prior to the win over USA. “We know that we can't play three spinners on this wicket, it's not going to be viable to drop a seamer and play a spinner, I think, looking at the conditions.

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“But also the other thing that Axar does, he gives you that depth as well in terms of the batting which was pretty evident in the last game (against Pakistan)," Mhambrey added. "Because we had to promote someone like him, we had to take a chance. He played a very critical role for the team.

“I think the good thing is that we already played in West Indies. We already had a couple of series out there prior to this, so we more or less know what kind of a surface we'll encounter out there.

“And as I said, as a team, we have so much of experience, we will adapt. We know that we have the skills, we have the temperament, and the talent to adapt.”

Saurabh Netravalkar's opening spell saw the back of Virat Kohli, for a golden duck, and Rohit Sharma.

Such was the dominance of seam in Nassau County that all-rounder Hardik Pandya bowled all 12 of his available overs across the three matches at the ground, with even the right-arm medium of Shivam Dube given a run against the Americans ahead of Jadeja’s left-arm spin.

And on this occasion it was Arshdeep Singh who returned the best figures as India wrapped a seven-wicket win, finishing with his career-best figures of 4/9 in four overs.

Arshdeep Singh won the Player of the Match award for his four-wicket haul against USA.

"It feels good when you perform good for the team and you get the right result as well,” Arshdeep said after the match.

“My family was here and they were really happy with the performance as well. But the emotions stay the same. That's the talk of the dressing room as well: How to be in the same mood, irrespective of the result, just try to be stable enough, whether we win, whether we lose, and whether we have a good day or a bad day.”

Arshdeep Singh struck with the first ball of the game against USA, curving the ball back into the right-hander.

It was Arshdeep who returned to the attack to pick up the key wicket of Nitish Kumar (27) just as the USA batter looked to be getting his side into a favourable position in the match.

But Arshdeep had Mohammed Siraj to thank for that wicket, with the fielder taking a blinder of a catch on the rope.

“Nitish hit it really well and I thought it was going for six but yes - it was a really nice catch and as a fielding unit we are trying to improve every percent,” Arshdeep said.

Mohammed Siraj jumped backwards to pluck a stunning catch near the ropes in the game against USA in New York.

Arshdeep’s excellence may yet see him retain his place even when India restructure their side for the Super 8 phase, but it is still likely to be either the left-armer or Siraj who makes way for a third spinner in the Caribbean.

For now though, Arshdeep is keen to enjoy the moment:

“I remember a quote Vikram Rathour told us in the team meeting that was, “stay where your feet are”.

“So right now, we are just enjoying the win here and we fly to Florida next and we'll focus on the next game there. Whatever happens right now, we stay in the present and prepare for that.”

India face Canada in their final Group A match, in Lauderhill, with play scheduled to start at 10:30 local time.

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