Axar Patel, who has been a part of the Indian limited-overs squad for quite some time, revealed how the Indian spinners had planned against the dangerous duo of Ross Taylor and Tom Latham as New Zealand resorted to the sweep shot to nullify any advantage that the spinners got in home conditions. While the ploy worked to perfection in the first of three-match ODI series where both Taylor and Latham had stitched together a 200-run match winning partnership, it didn't come off in the remaining matches as India won the ODI series 2-1. The hosts maintained their winning momentum by winning the first of the 3-match T20I series and the visitors need to act accordingly with the Indian spinners altering their length along with subtle variations that is making life difficult for the Kiwis.
After losing the first ODI against New Zealand in Mumbai, where Latham repeatedly played the sweep shot against Kuldeep Yadav, the Indian team changed its ploy bring in Axar, which worked for the Men In Blue.
"They played the sweep (shot) well in the first game. We knew that against spinners that was the strategy they will adopt and we formalised our strategy as per that by changing the angle by bowling over and round the wicket (in turns)," said Axar at the pre-match conference, who plays for Gujarat in the Ranji Trophy. Axar also added that skipper Virat Kohli has given him the freedom and confidence to bowl as he wants to.
The 23-year-old, however made it clear that he does not consider himself as a substitute of Ravindra Jadeja in the limited overs format and will "automatically" get selected if he is doing well.
The left-arm spinner, who has been preferred over seasoned pro Jadeja has played 8 ODIs since August taking 10 wickets and more importantly has been economical in most of the games.
"I have got a place in the team and that's why I am playing. I am of the view that if I do well in one game, I will automatically be picked in the next match," Axar told mediapersons at the pre-match conference.
"The captain backs you when you do well. I have been playing from the second ODI. He gives me the freedom to bowl what I want to. He leaves it to us (him and Chahal) to decide on what to do. He says if that plan doesn't succeed even then I will back you, which gives us confidence to bowl with a free mind," said the lanky left-arm orthodox, who had splendid figures of 2 for 20 in four overs in the first T20 International in Delhi.
Chief coach Ravi Shastri was also a left-arm spinner but his advice to Axar has been more on the mental aspects of the game.
"He knows my bowling style is different from his. He always says "you know how to bowl and that's why you are in the team and you continue to do that". He says all that is mind game, how to handle situations under pressure. He gives me small tips."
He has always been assigned a specific role by the team management -- to contain runs and he has done that with a fair amount of success.
"My role is the same. The wrist spinner (Yuzvendra Chahal in this case) gets turn on most wickets and his role is to attack more and try to take wickets in middle overs. Finger spinner's aim is to contain from one end. If pressure is put from both ends, there are more chances of getting the wickets," said Axar.
While he plays Ranji Trophy for Gujarat and IPL for Kings XI Punjab, the Rajkot Stadium (Saurashtra's home ground) has been like a second home for him.
"Obviously, it's my home ground and I have some idea about how the wicket will behave from my experience playing IPL over here. There is not much turn on offer but it's skiddy and there's some bounce. I know how to bowl here," he added.
(With PTI inputs)