Axar Patel’s dilemma for Team India in the Asian Cup

Axar Patel
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Rohit Sharma has been reluctant to use the abilities of left-arm spinners across formats, as evidenced by his recent underwhelming performance against Sri Lanka on a shifting track.

Since making his ODI debut for India at Mirpur in 2014—following a standout IPL campaign with Kings XI Punjab (now Punjab Kings)—Axar Patel has played in 53 matches. George Bailey, his captain at the time, gave him the benefit of the doubt after he enjoyed early success in ODIs, taking 17 wickets from 17 matches at a good economy rate of 6.13. With 58 wickets in 53 games at an economy rate of 4.52 and valuable contributions from his batting and fielding, Axar’s ODI record continues to be commendable.

Axar has played alongside Ravindra Jadeja in nine of these ODIs. Ravindra Jadeja is a left-handed batsman, an outstanding fielder, and a fastish left-arm orthodox bowler. With eight wickets in nine games and an economy rate of 4.85, Jadeja has a solid record in these contests.

Axar’s bowling efforts have been modest ever since Virat Kohli was replaced as captain by Rohit Sharma, which has affected his confidence and rhythm. Axar has only been given the opportunity to bowl his full allotment of overs once in seven games under Rohit’s captaincy, leading to just three wickets at an economy rate of 5.92 runs per over. Axar has only twice in the past 15 games bowled all of his allotted overs.

Except for a match against Sri Lanka in Guwahati earlier this year, Axar has not had the chance to bowl his entire allotment of overs under Rohit’s leadership, and in the majority of these games, he has given up runs at a rate topping 5.7 runs per over. He has been listed as the fourth-choice bowler in five of these games.

Particularly during a match in the Asia Cup Super Four where he achieved an important 26 runs on a difficult pitch, Axar’s performance came under fire. Axar, however, was unable to have a meaningful impact and conceded runs on a track that favoured spinners, particularly left-arm spinners. Axar was outscored in this area by both Jadeja and chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, and Rohit was forced to rely on a four-over stint from Hardik Pandya to make up for Axar’s lack of penetration.

Rohit has not demonstrated the confidence to use Axar for prolonged intervals, not even in Test cricket on surfaces that are conducive to spin. In the four-match Border-Gavaskar Trophy series against Australia, Axar only bowled 86 overs. He nevertheless made a substantial contribution with the bat, averaging 88 and scored 264 key runs in the lower order.

Because of his batting prowess, Axar was chosen for the World Cup squad over more seasoned bowlers like R Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal. Although Rohit recognised that an off-spinner could have been a better option, he valued batting depth more than variety.

Now that Bangladesh is playing in a less important game, Axar gets a chance to show off his bowling skills and build a claim for upcoming battles. He needs the captain’s trust, which has been lacking lately, to accomplish this.

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