Rohit on Kuldeep and Chahal: 'It's certainly on my mind to get them back together'

India's captain stressed that Kuldeep would need to be given time to get back into his groove following his return from knee surgery

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
It's on Rohit Sharma's mind to get Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal "back together", and whenever that happens, give them time to get into their groove. Rohit, who begins his first series as India's full-time ODI captain, is also mindful of handling "Kuldeep's situation carefully" as he plots his way back into competitive cricket following knee surgery last October.
Kuldeep's recovery has taken him nearly four months. His rehabilitation coincided with India's white-ball domestic tournaments in November-December, which means he will be heading into the ODI series against West Indies having barely played any cricket over recent months. India would have held just two training sessions by the time they take the field for the first ODI against West Indies on Sunday.
Kuldeep's only recent outing came in January, when he was part of an exhibition game in Meerut organised by the Uttar Pradesh government, involving several Ranji Trophy players from the state. So, in a sense, Kuldeep will be taking baby steps back from injury after missing the entire IPL 2021.
He was left out of the first leg in April 2021 because Kolkata Knight Riders preferred Varun Chakravarthy's mystery spin, and he withdrew from the second leg once the knee injury came to light in the UAE. In between, he was part of India's second-string squad that played a limited-overs series in Sri Lanka, where he picked up four wickets in four matches.
One of the reasons why Kuldeep and Chahal will perhaps be given the opportunity to rediscover their partnership is because of their past success. Between the end of the 2017 Champions Trophy and the start of the 2019 World Cup, Kuldeep (87 wickets at 21.74) and Chahal (66 wickets at 25.68) were the top two wicket-takers in all ODI cricket.
"They are going to be crucial going forward," Rohit said ahead of Sunday's series opener in Ahmedabad. "These two guys have been great performers for us in the past, they've certainly created an impact in those years whenever they've played together. In the middle why they have been left out was because of combination. We wanted to get an extra batter in, at times we wanted to get an extra seamer in, so that is probably why one of the two have missed out, but it's certainly on my mind to get them back together, Kuldeep especially."
Rohit emphasised on allowing Kuldeep to "get into his groove" and "find his rhythm" repeatedly, and said the team would give him every opportunity to come into his own, even if he took his time.
"He hasn't played since the IPL, then he got injured and was out since then," Rohit said. "He hasn't played a lot of games after that, so we want to get him in slowly. We don't want to rush into things. It can't do good for either the team or him. You have to give him some time to come into his groove, to come into his own, and that is going to take a little bit of time. We straightaway don't want to put him into a situation where we are asking too much of him also. I think for us, it's important we handle that situation carefully. For us, very important players both of these guys."
Chahal is another curious case. Having been a key white-ball player over the past four years, he has lately found himself at the crossroads, with the team management seemingly prepared to look beyond him. First, they went to Rahul Chahar for thê T20 World Cup. Now, their search for another legspin option has led them to young Ravi Bishnoi. Where Chahal is old-school - he relies on flight, drift and dip - Bishnoi has a quick-arm action, is faster through the air, and gets more bounce.
Rohit didn't go into the specifics of who plays and who doesn't but touched upon the need to remain consistent in selection, be clear with players about their roles, and give them a long rope.
"Chahal obviously played in South Africa, Kuldeep has just come back into the squad now. Obviously, we want to give them an opportunity, but it can happen over the course of time. It just cannot happen suddenly. Kuldeep needs to play a lot of games to get his groove and rhythm back and we do understand that. Keeping everything in mind, we want to move forward and whatever is going to help the team, we will try and take those steps."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo