‘Kul-cha’ was the favour of Team India between 2017 and 2019 as the two wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal emerged as big match-winners for the country and bamboozled opposition batsmen all over the world. Since then their form dipped and they saw a dramatic reversal in their fortunes making only sporadic appearances for the country across formats. However, both of them have found a place for themselves in India’s limited overs squad to Sri Lanka and former all-rounder Irfan Pathan believes that the two of them would again be sharing the white ball for India in the middle overs in the island nation.
India won a whopping 24 of the 34 ODI matches in which Chahal and Yadav played together for the country between 2017 and 2019. They were the two highest wicket takers for India in these 34 matches - while the Chinman returned with 65 ODI wickets at an average of 22.73 and strike rate of 27.6, the leg break bowler bagged 53 wickets at an average of 29.26 and strike rate of 33.5. Both of them were also phenomenally restrictive with an economy rate of 4.94 and 5.23 - thus not only were they tormenting opposition line-ups by picking heaps of wickets they were also making run-scoring very difficult and controlling the game in the middle overs.
It was a similar story in T20I cricket too. India won 8 and lost just two of the 10 matches in which Chahal and Kuldeep played together. While the left-arm wrist spinner bagged 22 wickets at a stunning strike rate of 9.6 and economy rate of 7.23, Chahal returned with 19 wickets at a strike rate of 11.8 and economy rate of 7.97.
After a brilliant IPL 2018, where he returned with 17 wickets at a strike rate of 18.11, Yadav witnessed a dramatic turn of events and lost all form and rhythm next season. He could pick just four wickets in 9 matches at an average of 71.5 in 2019. This had an effect on his fortunes for India too and he went out of favour and represented the country in just two matches in the year.
It was almost the same script for Chahal but in international cricket. After a magnificent couple of years for India in T20 cricket, his form went on the downward spiral from 2019. He picked just 8 wickets in 9 matches at an average of 39.25 and economy rate of 8.97 - thus, not only was he not picking wickets he was also going for aplenty in the middle overs.
Pathan felt that the only way for the two wrist spinners to return to form was to play together for the country like they did in the past. Sharing his views on a show on Star Sports, the all-rounder backed the duo to bowl in tandem in Sri Lanka.
“The only way you can get confidence is by playing matches. And if Kuldeep keeps bowling more and more overs, this is where his lost confidence will come back. He has been a very successful bowler in a short span of time for Indian cricket. He has been one of the quickest to take 100 wickets and he is a wicket-taker. As far as the rest of the team is concerned, you need to give them confidence," quoted Pathan.
One of the reasons for the break-up of the Chahal-Yadav partnership in limited overs was the emergence of Ravindra Jadeja and the subsequent back injury of Hardik Pandya. Till Pandya was the all-rounder in the XI, there was place for both Chahal and Yadav in the team but with Jadeja occupying that slot, it became impossible to play two more spinners in the XI. Pathan acknowledged this and admitted that the return of Pandya the bowler will enable the team to return to Kul-Cha.
“So, I am looking forward to see, not only Kuldeep and Chahal bowling together, but I am hoping that Hardik Pandya starts bowling. What I am hearing is that if he starts bowling, then it makes it easier to play both of them."