Only about two months back, India’s coveted wristspinning property, Kuldeep Yadav had suffered a rare failure in international cricket. But that was in Tests, in the only red-ball opportunity he had on that tour of England. Prior to that, his confidence was at an all-time high. Why not? After all, he had picked up 14 wickets from five limited-overs games there, including Michelles – 5 for 24 in the first T20I and 6 for 25 in the opening ODI. But his ordinary spell of nine overs which saw him going for 44 runs, coincidentally during India’s worst defeat on that tour, might have had a greater bearing on the young mind, reports cribuzz.
So when India went in with three spinners for their first Test against the Windies, contrary to the popular perception that they would play this game as a screen test for the impending Australia tour, Kuldeep knew he had to make the most of this opportunity. By the end of the third day’s play, also the end of the match, the chinaman bowler had picked his maiden five-wicket haul to complete the full set across all forms of the game.
Since his debut in June 2017, Kuldeep has played in 70 percent of India’s limited-overs internationals, picking up 82 wickets from 41 matches. Such has been his impact that ever since his arrival along with Yuzvendra Chahal, India’s prime spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have had to watch from the sidelines in the white-ball format. However, Tests are a different ball game altogether, more so in English conditions. Kuldeep would admit too.
So, immediately on his return from England after the end of the five-match series, he was desperate to mend his game. It was just one failure but Kuldeep didn’t want to take it lightly.
“I went to my coach after returning from England, I bowled a lot with the red ball for 3-4 days. I was with my Sir for 4-5 days, concentrated a lot on bowling round the wicket as well as over the wicket… on my release, also on the pace since in one-day cricket your pace increases,” Kuldeep revealed on Saturday (October 6). “I worked on all that. It probably took me (about) two innings to gain the confidence and in the second (four-day Test) against Australia A, I got five wickets and everything changed from there (on).
The confidence was back, however, the rhythm was still elusive. In his first spell of the morning, he would go on to leak 43 runs from six overs, being put to some harsh treatment by Windies’ No. 8 batsman Keemo Paul. The 24-year-old would later admit that he hadn’t expected the Windies batsmen to come out as aggressively as they did, and that he felt that they would give a chance while doing so. Chances were a trifle and the redemption was yet to be made.
The innings changed. So did Kuldeep’s fortunes. His first wicket was of Shai Hope, who he trapped in front of the stumps with a delivery. His next two victims, Shimron Hetmyer and Sunil Ambris, were done in by the extra ‘air’ and the googly. His figures now read 6-1-16-3. A similarly sized spell in the morning though had made for a completely different reading.
“So when I came back for the second inning… I had to guard against that extra flight because these West Indian batsmen have the power game, they can score freely. So I kept it in mind, used the variations and plugged the scoring rate.”
Over the course of the next few overs, Kuldeep would go on to prise out the wickets of Roston Chase – arguably their best player of spin, and Kieran Powell – their top-scorer from the second inning. The latter’s wicket, quite meaningfully, would also be his fifth of the inning – the first time he had achieved the feat in the longer format of the game.
While his white-ball numbers have made him the confident giant he is, it has had its repercussions too. “White ball is a bit hard and it’s easier to grip. After a few overs, it gets softer, so it takes time to adjust. It was difficult, but after coming back, I played some matches and got used to the conditions. After the Asia Cup, it took me 3-4 days to get used to it,” he explained.
Back with the SG ball at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, Kuldeep was raring to go. He spun the familiarity of it, having played with it since childhood, into his favour and later, to his team’s favour as well.
Prior to the start of the series, there had been a lot of hype about how India were looking to simulate the conditions in Rajkot in tune with the ones they will encounter in Australia later this year. Captain Virat Kohli too had mentioned that there was not much they were looking at achieving from the series apart from settling their top order.
It’s not always Kuldeep gets to work without much attention on him, especially in the crucial months leading up to the World Cup next year. He didn’t mind that leading up to this Test match. Instead he focused solely on bringing his red-ball game back on track. He knew if he did that, he’d get what he hasn’t asked for often. As has been the case in his nascent career, so far, he earned it – attention, and in a format which he says is very close to his heart.
“I want to play red-ball cricket for long