It has been a night of resurrection for Kuldeep Yadav, hasn’t it?
Four for 20 in his spell of four overs — the Kanpur boy single-handedly broke the backbone of Rajasthan Royals on Tuesday night at Eden Garden, the ground where he has an international hat-trick to his name. After struggling with form and confidence, finally, the tweaker exhibited his magic, that too in a crucial fixture for his team.
And such an effort has been a long time coming. But as they say, late is better than never.
Following his recent heroics in international level, Kuldeep came into this 11th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) with a lot of hype surrounding him. At the start of the tournament, the young left-arm wrist-spinner was considered as Kolkata Knight Riders’ (KKR) prime wicket-taking option, even ahead of their long-trusted warrior Sunil Narine.
However, as the season unfolded, quite surprisingly Kuldeep was taken apart by the batsmen. He was leaking runs and bowling too many freebies, which prompted the opposition to specifically target him. Taking wickets in the middle overs is Kuldeep’s specialty, but for the most part of this IPL season, it seemed, he was just bowling for survival, so much so that skipper Dinesh Karthik had to hide him on the field at times. Part-timers and other bowlers completed his quota. In fact, prior to Tuesday’s fixture against Rajasthan Royals, he had only nine scalps in 12 games, at an average of 35.11 and an economy rate of 8.94.
With the international season scheduled to commence next month, there was a substantial amount of pressure on Kuldeep to get his act right at this business end of the IPL.
On Tuesday night, by the time Kuldeep was given the ball, his team was in a spot of bother. In-form Jos Buttler had provided the Royals a blistering start and they were 74 for one after eight overs, threating to bat KKR out of this match, like Mumbai did last Wednesday. But within the next few overs, Kuldeep just turned the game on its head.
It all started with the second ball of his spell when Ajinkya Rahane premeditated a reverse sweep got cleaned up. Getting a wicket early in his spell was a huge morale-booster for the 23-year wrist-spinner. And the joy was evident from his celebratory leap.
And soon the control returned, so did his confidence. Kuldeep found his length and was ready to bowl some air.
In his second over, Kuldeep’s discipline almost forced Buttler to play a reverse sweep. But anticipating that release shot, he bowled a quicker one and the Englishman only managed a leading edge which was taken at backward point.
“I was only thinking of taking a wicket, Jos Buttler is the man in form and I was really trying to get him out. You have to motivate yourself, you have to back your strengths and basics and try to succeed," Kuldeep said in the post-match presentation while taking his ‘Man of the match’ award.
"I knew Buttler was trying to reverse sweep, so I bowled a quicker one,” he added.
Later, the wickets of Stuart Binny and Ben Stokes had been a classic left-arm spinner’s dismissals.
Binny failed to read a googly, which was bowled wide and full. He had no idea of which way the ball would spin and was trying to play a nothing shot lunging out of his crease. Karthik made no mistake to complete the stumping. Whereas Stoked produced a leading edge, to a ball, which was bowled from an angle from around the wicket. Most importantly, Kuldeep bowled it slow and it did the trick. The bowler himself took the catch in his follow-through.
When Kuldeep finished his four overs, the Royals were tottering at 107 for seven after 14 overs. That was the game for KKR and from that point, it was just a formality.
In Piyush Chawla’s absence, Kuldeep not only put his hands up and produced his best ever IPL spell, on Tuesday night, the youngster reestablished himself as a bowler and as one of the bright future prospects of Indian cricket.