Chawla strengthens his chances for second spinner`s role

Updated: Feb 14, 2011, 20:42 PM IST

Mumbai: Leg spinner Piyush Chawla has played just one ODI over the past two years but following his match-winning performance against Australia in a World Cup warm-up, he appears to have bagged a place in the Indian team.

The variety and control in Chawla`s leg spin not only brought him four wickets on Sunday but also made him the frontrunner to clinch the second spinner`s slot in India`s World Cup line-up.

The 22-year-old was a surprise inclusion in India`s 15-man squad for the Feb 19-April 2 showpiece as he had last played in the 50-over format in July 2008 -- in the Asia Cup against Pakistan -- before playing one match against South Africa last month.

Chawla was drafted into the side ahead of the more regular left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha to provide variety to an attack already boasting of two off-spinners in Harbhajan Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin.

"They have wisely included a leg spinner, Piyush Chawla, to partner Harbhajan Singh in the World Cup," Pakistan`s World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan said.

"I have always believed that leg-spinners are essential in ODIs as they are attacking options and take wickets."

India`s part-time spin options are also mostly off-spinners in Yusuf Pathan, Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina with Yuvraj Singh`s left-arm spin being the only exception.

While Yuvraj regularly dons the role of a left-arm spinner for India in ODIs, Chawla`s leg spin will provide more attacking options for captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Chawla, in his first 50-over match at home for India on Sunday, triggered a batting collapse to pick up the wickets of Michael Clarke, Cameron White, David Hussey and Callum Ferguson.

"The wicket of Ferguson was most satisfying. I had gully and slips and I was mixing things up," Chawla said after the match.

"My place in the eleven will depend on things. If the pitch is slow and helps spinners, I will have a good chance to make it."

The performance earned him rich accolades from Australia captain Ricky Ponting.

"That is probably the best I`ve seen him bowl," Ponting said.

"He spun the ball a bit more... his control was pretty good."

Dhoni was also pleased with the performance with the ball but did not mince any words while making it clear that he wanted a better performance from Chawla, who was out for a duck, with the bat.

"As a specialist spinner he has done well in whatever games he has played," Dhoni said.

"In the first game that he played in South Africa, he was under pressure which is quite acceptable as he was playing for the country after a long time... you can`t really rate a player by just one performance.

"So it`s really good to see him play the first ODI game here... and he made the batsmen really think hard about the variations."

Bureau Report