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‘With due respect to Axar…’: Rahul Dravid points out ‘VVS Laxman’ as case in point, proves Kuldeep Yadav selection right

Seeing Axar Patel walk out to bat at No. 6 reminded Rahul Dravid of VVS Laxman.

What makes India’s 4-1 win over England even sweeter is the fact that Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid achieved it with a depleted team. Prior to the start of the series, India lost Virat Kohli to personal reasons, before then being without KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja to their respective injuries. India eventually got Jadeja back but Rahul took no further part in the series, and yet, despite being out of star players, India roared back from being 0-1 down in Hyderabad to seal the series with four straight wins on the bounce.

Kuldeep over Axar the way forward? Rahul Dravid gives a hint. (ANI-Getty)

Then again, such is India’s bench strength. Going into the second Test at Visakhapatnam, India coach Dravid recalled the first thoughts that came to his mind when he saw Axar Patel walk out at No. 6. “When I saw Axar walk in at No.6, I remember looking at Vikram and thinking, ‘Jeez, VVS (Laxman) used to walk out at that position’. With due respect to Axar (laughs), he is a lovely player,” Dravid said.

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It was a case of two of India’s batters from the 1990s talking about another fabulous peer and being sent on a nostalgia trip. In the initial bit of his career, Laxman was tried out at numerous batting positions – he batted at No. 3 a total of 37 times and opened the innings on 25 instances – before finding his true calling at No. 5 and 6. No. 5 is where Laxman found most success – 2877 runs from 74 innings at an average of 47.16, but No. 6 wasn’t too bad either – with 2760 runs from 67 innings averaging 50.18.

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Nonetheless, starting the third Test in Rajkot, India did away with Axar, and with Jadeja back, opted for Kuldeep Yadav as the second spinner. And truth be told, what a decision it turned out to be. Kuldeep picked up 19 wickets and tied with Jasprit Bumrah as the joint third-highest wicket taker of the series behind Ravichandran Ashwin and Tom Hartley.

And then there’s Kuldeep

Besides the wickets, Kuldeep twice played crucial roles with the bat – once in Ranchi to form a 73-run partnership with Dhruv Jurel and then again in Dharamsala with Bumrah as India posted 477 and took a solid first-innings lead of 259, eventually paving the way for an innings win. All this, to go with his career-altering spell of 5/77 in the first innings. An absolute classic. Dravid admits that the decision to go ahead with Kuldeep was never easy given what Axar brings to the table, but having said that, the coach felt it was the right decision

“It’s been tough on Kuldeep. He’s bowling at a time when there are legends of the game (Ashwin and Jadeja) who are playing as spinners. So it’s not been easy for Kuldeep. He hasn’t played a lot of red-ball cricket since making his debut here in 2017. Given the context, for him to come into this series and perform the way he has, it’s been absolutely superb,” Dravid added.

But while Kuldeep could very well have cemented himself as India’s second lead spinner after Ashwin, Dravid remains tight-lipped over whether Kuldeep will feature in India’s XI when they make a trip Down Under for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy later this year.

“What happens when we go overseas, we will have to just see. Ashwin, 500 wickets in 100 Tests, sometimes doesn’t play in those games. When we go abroad, we don’t get wickets that allow us to play more than one spinner. Sometimes we are playing without a spinner on wickets like that. Those are the kind of wickets that are being prepared. Sometimes it’s tough,” Dravid said.


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