Just for sake of variation, you can't play three spinners on Indian tracks: Muttiah Muralitharan

Two spinners will be enough in India's playing XI during upcoming World Cup, feels former Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan, who is firmly against the idea of forcibly fitting in a third specialist slow bowler just for the heck of it.
Muttiah Muralitharan
Muttiah Muralitharan

Mumbai | Two spinners will be enough in India's playing XI during upcoming World Cup, feels former Sri Lankan spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan, who is firmly against the idea of forcibly fitting in a third specialist slow bowler just for the heck of it.

India have picked three left-arm slow bowlers -- orthodox spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel along with wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav.

"Only for the sake of variation you cannot play three spinners in a team. You can play only two. Jadeja will play as an all-rounder and one more can play," Muralitharan told PTI during an exclusive interview on the sidelines of a promotional event on his biopic '800'.

The world record holder with 800 Test wickets feels that Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja provides an ideal combination.

"You have to see what is the right combination is. If they play Jadeja and Kuldeep, it is okay, since you have also got an off-spinner and a wrist-spinner," Muralitharan added.

While there has been a lot of debate on exclusion of Yuzvendra Chahal, Muralitharan felt that it is the right call considering that both Kuldeep and reserve spinner Axar Patel have looked in better rhythm compared to the Haryana wrist spinner.

"I don't know the current form of (Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Yuzvendra) Chahal. Do not judge (a player's) form on T20s — T20 is different and one-day is different," he added.

"You also need to highlight that Kuldeep and Axar have put in better performances than Chahal," the maestro said, adding that a bit of List A cricket could have helped Chahal.

The wiry leg-spinner was picked for both ODIs and T20Is for the tour of West Indies where he played the shortest format. However he possibly couldn't have played any domestic one-dayers as the Deodhar Trophy coincided with the Caribbean tour.

"I do not mind having experience, but is Chahal playing domestic cricket? If no, then how can you pick him? He is out. In my mind, if he is not playing domestic one-day cricket, then how can you pick him?" he questioned.

Chahal last played an ODI for India in January this year and Muralitharan said the selectors would have faced the flak had he failed to perform if selected.

"In Chahal's case, if he has not played domestic and one-day cricket recently, then you cannot pick him. What happens if he does not perform? Everyone will ask the selectors as to why you picked up somebody who has not played (ODI in last 6 months)," he said.

He said the three spinners who have been picked were the first three choices.

"For me, they (the spinners) would have been Jadeja, Ashwin and Kuldeep. They have to play domestic one-day cricket and perform, then only they can get in. If they do not play domestic and only play IPL, it is wrong," Muralitharan added.

Ashwin had last played an ODI in January 2022 and Axar has been a part of 50 over set-up for some time now and hence it was a no-brainer that Gujarat all-rounder would have "May be, the selectors thought that Axar Patel has done well that is why Ashwin did not get a chance."But combination-wise, it is (always) better to have a left-arm spinner, an off-spinner and a leg-spinner," he explained further.

Muralitharan said India's batting mainstays Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have a lot of cricket left in them, "They (Kohli and Rohit) are two of India's best players and still they can play for a while. Why are you saying this event will be last?," Muralitharan countered when asked if this would be the swansong for the two contemporary greats of the game.

"Virat is only about 34; he has another five years of international cricket in him. Rohit is 36. Media cannot say these guys are going to leave now. It is about them to decide if they have had enough of cricket,” he said.

Muralitharan said winning a World Cup takes a lot out of players and expecting performances from just a few in a team would be wrong.

"Every cricketer is going to think that World Cup is going to be one of the most important (tournament) in their careers. But playing in the World Cup is one (thing), participating is one (thing) and winning is something different," he said.

“Everyone is anxious to win; they will all have pressure on them and they will handle it. It is important for everyone — not those two players — this is a game of cricket played by a team.” "If you are going to compare individuals and (say) they are going to do everything, they will be under pressure and the team will lose. You have to expect from everyone," said the 1996 World Cup champion, who has also played two more finals -- 2007 and 2011.

Muralitharan said Asian teams will have advantage of favourable conditions over winners of the last two editions England and Australia.

"In our conditions, the Asian teams are better teams than those two sides. Conditions matter — you are playing in India, not in England or New Zealand," he said.

"The last time England won on home turf. But now they are getting beaten by New Zealand in T20Is. India and Pakistan will have a good chance; Sri Lanka is playing well, and Bangladesh. Asian countries have a good chance,” he said.

However, Muralitharan favoured India to enjoy home advantage over the others.

“Every team has their strengths and weaknesses. A World Cup is (something) that nobody can predict — when you come to knockouts it is very hard,” he said.

“All teams are good; they would have covered their bases (from) the matches they have played. But if you ask, India has a better chance because they are playing at home," Muralitharan said.

Muralitharan, who took 800 wickets in Tests, 534 in ODIs and 13 in T20Is, said cricket will become boring if ODIs lose their relevance and are phased out.

"It depends on the ICC. They have to take a call whether they want the teams keep on playing. Cricket will get boring if ODI cricket is not there,” he concluded.

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