Thanks to his rare trait, an in-form Kuldeep Yadav is an asset to India's scheme of things across formats. Even on overseas conditions, which do not have much to offer to the spinners, a bowler like him can trouble the batsmen and get those breakthroughs for the team using his skills, variations and the bounce available on those pitches.
However, despite being a regular member of India's limited-overs' set-up, the 23-year old still craves for success in the red-ball format. Prior to coming into this ongoing series against Windies as a third-choice spinner for the hosts, the left-armer had a few noteworthy performances but more of less struggled with his consistency in Test matches.
Nevertheless, at Rajkot, India wanted to play three spinners to polish off the Windies as quickly as possible and this gameplan gave Kuldeep a much-awaited opportunity to prove his mettle. Following the failure at the recent Lord's Test and after being dropped from the squad in the middle of the England series, the youngster knew that he had to make the most of this break and with his maiden five-for in the second innings, one has to admit that Kuldeep has found some sort of redemption in Test cricket.
It was not only about getting wickets, the important aspect was the manner in which Kuldeep outfoxed the Windies batters, especially in the second innings when a massive improvement from England was noticed in his lengths, trajectory and speed. And since this series being more or less a screen test for the Australia tour, Kuldeep's improved show must have come as a breath of fresh air for the team management.
Well, this improvement hasn't come overnight. The jolt at Lord's, where he was used for only 9 overs in the entire match by skipper Virat Kohli, made the youngster more determined to prove a point. So, a desperate Kuldeep went back to his roots, identified his mistakes and worked on those to be absolutely ready for the next opportunity.
After being sent home from England following the Nottingham Test, Kuldeep had got a 4-5 days break before joining the India A squad for the two four-day matches against Australia A. Instead of taking rest following a hectic tour, he utilised that time to have an extended session with his childhood coach Kapil Pandey.
"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 while addressing the media following India's huge triumph at Rajkot.
In England, he did not bowl enough overs with the red-ball. So, for Kuldeep to get his groove back, coach Kapil urged him to bowl more than 60 overs during those few days. Furthermore, he bowled his wrist-spin with the new ball to improve his gripping as well as control. The coach also worked with Kuldeep's wrist-position.
Thankfully, the training did work as in his next assignment against the Australia A team, the southpaw took 12 wickets in two four-day matches, including a five-wicket haul in the second game at Alur.
"It probably took me (about) two innings to gain the confidence and in the second (four-day fixture) against Australia A, I got five wickets and everything changed from there (on)," he said.
Well, the confidence might have been back but the Test rhythm wasn't, at least in the first innings at Rajkot. He was not sure of the right length on the pitch and at times was guilty of fighting the ball much more than required. The Windies batters went after him as he conceded 62 runs in 10 overs. When the entire opposition innings was folded for just 181, Kuldeep had nothing but a lone scalp of Shane Dowrich. Certainly, it was not the ideal return he was looking for following the debacle at Lords.
Nevertheless, with the innings, Kuldeep's fortunes changed as well. He learnt from his mistakes in the previous innings.
"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," the bowler mentioned.
Right from his initial spell in the second innings, Kuldeep's primary focus was on plugging the run-scoring avenues of the free-flowing Windies batsmen. He pulled his length a little back and opted for a much flatter trajectory. There was no freebie on offer for the batsmen.
The plan worked as only 4 runs were scored in his first three overs despite the presence of a set Kieran Powell at the crease. His first wicket was of Shai Hope. After playing five dot balls in that over, he was outfoxed by the length of the delivery and was trapped in front of the stumps. Shimron Hetmyer and Sunil Ambris, Kuldeep's next two scalps were done in by the extra air and a well-disguised googly respectively. Within 36 balls he had taken 3 wickets for just 16 runs - Kuldeep's confidence seemed sky-high and the stride in his steps were clearly evident.
Over the course of the next few overs, the left-arm wrist-spinner invited Roston Chase - arguably their best player of spin - to play a fall shot to, and removed Powell - their top-scorer - through a smart catch by Prithvi Shaw at silly point.
Eventually, the opposition was bowled out for 196 and Kuldeep returned with figures of 14-2-57-5 - just what the doctor ordered for him.
By this performance Kuldeep, in all likelihood, has secured a place in the XI for the Hyderabad Test. And another fruitful outing over there will significantly make him a better bet than Ravichandran Ashwin to play the first Test in Australia.
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