Umesh Yadav is such a shy, quiet, and obedient man that he rarely speaks his mind during a media interaction. But recently after the first T20 series win against Ireland, Umesh revealed his mindset ahead of the England tour. "When you have confidence in your bowling that is when you really enjoy the art. Right now I believe I'm at that stage where my confidence is high."
The news could not be brighter for India, especially now that Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be missing in the first couple of matches. Umesh, the tearaway quick, capable of tormenting England with his sheer pace is well poised to make a significant impact on the upcoming five-Test series. Umesh was sensational during the Indian Premier League and playing under the captaincy of Virat Kohli at the Bangalore Challengers is sure to give him that extra comfort by the time the red ball version of cricket roles around in the first week of August.
For a while now Umesh has touted as the fastest bowler in India and this series presents a golden opportunity to rattle the cages of the England batsmen. Umesh will be buoyed by the fact that the England lower order succumbed haplessly to the fast and furious bowling of the Australian quicks just six months ago.
Like his fellow bowling partners in the current squad, he has been around international cricket for an extended time and this series will present him a chance to improve on his average of 35. The English conditions might be new to him, given he is yet to play a Test here, but at the age of 30 and at prime fitness this is his chance of basking in glory with his well-directed missiles.
Umesh is of course more than just an intimidating bowler and has the skills to swing the new and the old ball. He is yet to play a Test match on the British Isles and rarely have the conditions been to favour the swinging ball in the Test arena. Throughout his career, he has been earmarked as the reverse swing specialist or told to pound away on the hard wickets of Australia. This time around, he may get conditions that will enable him to continuously move the ball through the air or off the pitch.
One of the areas Umesh seems to have improved upon in recent times is that he can bowl in different gears. In the IPL and even on the current ODI series, he cut down his pace to focus on accuracy whilst the conditions assist, but at the same time can change gears if the pitch is benign and providing little assistance.
The dry English summer also means the pitches could be barren and conducive to reverse swing, an aspect of Umesh's bowling that is sublime. In an interview last year he stated "When I was in and out of the team, I was not sure what to do. With more matches, I began realising what to do and what not. I slowly realised my strength and weaknesses. Now I have a better idea and I know how to bowl on a certain type of pitch."
In a series that is expected to be tight, if Umesh can slice through the England tail with his pace, it could go a long way to deciding the fate of a test match. Importantly, Kohli's inkling towards always picking an extra bowler means Umesh will have the leisure of going full throttle in short bursts. The latest setback to Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah means Umesh is likely to be a certain starter in the first two Tests. It presents a chance for him to show his skills on a seamer-friendly track and on tracks deprived of grass and assisting bounce.
For a while now India has been itching for fast bowler capable of frightening the opposition with pace. Umesh has been on the scene for a few years now and his time has come to live up to his reputation. His phenomenal spell against Australia in Dharamsala last year is an example of his capabilities. India needs more of it from their pace demon. He has a captain that has trusts in him and will back the aggressive approach. The pitches might now be hard, but Umesh's physical traits will ensure he has a big role to play.
As Virat Kohli said before the tour, it will take a team effort to win a series in England. Umesh has been on the horizon long enough without having a significant impact. At the peak of his fitness time has come for the Vidharbha express to win India Test matches abroad with his sheer pace and skill.
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