One of the glaring statistics of India's four-wicket win earlier this week in the first ODI was Kuldeep Yadav's 84-run drubbing in Hamilton while picking two wickets. After his 12-run first over, Kuldeep bounced back in fashion to combine with KL Rahul in dismissing Tom Blundell. The chinaman conceded just one run in the over and seven more in his third over. But a sudden change in tactic following New Zealand's third dismissal hurt India the most Kuldeep had to bear the thrashing. With the hosts requiring 168 to win off 111 balls, a run rate just a tick over nine, stand-in skipper Tom Latham brought himself ahead in the batting order and took off aggressively against the leggie - first two balls, two clinical sweeps and eight runs for Latham. The technique played a central role in New Zealand's chase of 384 wherein Kuldeep conceded 30 runs off 17 deliveries. Kuldeep's 10 overs, 84 runs, 2 wickets turned out to be the third-worst bowling figure ever by an Indian spinner in 50-over cricket.
Hence the question, should India replace Kuldeep with Yuzvendra Chahal for the Auckland game on Saturday?
In 14 matches the two have featured in the same playing XI for matches outside Asia in the ODI format, Kuldeep was the better bowler with 35 wickets in 14 innings at an average of 16.60 and an economy rate of 4.84. Chahal, however, struggled averaging 27.62 in the 24 wickets he picked. However, when either one of them featured in the playing XI, Chahal was the better bowler - 18 wickets in eight matches at 16.94 and economy of 4.29. Kuldeep, on the other hand, managed 16 wickets in 11 games at nearly double the average and economy of 5.29. Moreover, in the five matches that Chahal has played against New Zealand, he has picked nine wickets at 24.33.
|Kuldeep and Chahal outside Asia in ODIs since 2017|
The bigger challenge for either of the two will be against the shorter boundaries at the Eden Park. The one down the track measures 48 metres while the square boundaries are of 65 and 63 metres. And here is another point where Chahal trumps Kuldeep.
Chahal has the experience of bowling in venues with shorter boundaries having spent most of his playing days at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium for his IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore. In fact, in the three international limited-overs games he has played on the track, Chahal managed six wickets at 21 an average.
Both, however, would look to avoid New Zealand's sweepathon strategy that gave them a total of 64 runs off 31 deliveries. Bowling fuller and keeping squarer region with fielders would be the only comprehensible clue for the spinners in Auckland. However, spinners have a better record at Eden Park over the last four ODIs - 14 wickets at 18.28 with an economy of 5.08 - compared to pace attack - 49 wickets at 32.3 with an economy of 5.56.