IND vs AUS: Umesh Yadav, the son of a coal miner and an ace with the old ball, is an honest trier

When Umesh Yadav struck thrice to hasten the end of Australia’s first innings in the third Test in Indore, the fast bowler who lost his father last week, did what many expected him to do regularly. Turn the tide of a match for Team India. He would have also hoped his late father Tilak, a coal miner who worked hard to ensure his three sons made it in life, was around to see him hurry the Australian batsmen with his pace and late swing.

Yadav hails from Khaparkheda village, nearly 30 kilometers from Nagpur. His family used to live in a two-storey house allotted to coal mine workers.

For years his father toiled in the dark while putting his health at risk breathing in coal dust. It was back-breaking work but Tilak didn’t mind. His happiness was linked to Umesh’s cricket career.

When Umesh got his first IPL pay cheque, he built a house for his joint family.

Everytime he returns home from a tour, he carries goody bags with chocolates for his nephew and niece. He also used to carry good whiskey for his father.

India’s Umesh Yadav bowls a delivery during the second day of third cricket test match between India and Australia in Indore, India, Thursday, March 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Surjeet Yadav)

Umesh moving up in life also helped the community around him. His late father Tilak had once said how he was swamped with requests for donations – whether it was for a temple or for friends asking for help to pay a part of the dowry for their daughters.

“I don’t like the attention. The other day, when I went to the local market, I tied a cloth over my face hoping nobody would recognise me,” his late father Tilak had said. Life had not been easy for the Yadavs. Umesh too had to deal with the ups and downs in his career. Umesh has played 54 Test matches, 75 One-day International and nine T20s but has learnt to live with being in and out of the team. Mohammed Shami who made his Test debut in 2013, two years after Umesh has played eight more Test matches. Umesh had told this paper about the challenges of not being a regular in the Indian team.

“The main thing is when you don’t play back-to-back games and get the odd match in between, what happens sometimes is that you don’t have the match-rhythm of bowling. The kind of confidence that comes when you are consistently playing. That rhythm is different. You do worry about the fact that you might get dropped if you don’t do well in this chance. Your focus is different then,” Yadav had said.

India’s Umesh Yadav celebrates dismissal of Australia’s Cameron Green during the second day of third cricket test match between India and Australia in Indore, India, Thursday, March 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Surjeet Yadav)

On Thursday, Yadav found the rhythm with the old ball in Indore. Australia lost six wickets for 11 runs, three of them were scalped by Umesh who got the ball to reverse swing and also skid through. Cameron Green was trapped leg-before-wicket and Mitchell Strac and Todd Murphy had their stumps rattled by Umesh. He made the old ball talk and also crossed a mini-milestone: 100 wickets at home for an Indian fast bowler. The list is topped by the peerless Kapil Dev with 219 wickets at home. But Umesh’s (100 wickets) name in the list just below Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan with 104 scalps and Javagal Srinath with 108 shows how under-rated he has been.

The fast bowler said that he used to stew in self pity when he didn’t get a regular run but had soon realised it was self-defeating.

“Thoda kharaab, buraa toh lagta hai (You do feel a touch bad) that you aren’t getting as many chances. I used to feel a bit down in the past about sitting on the sidelines and watching. But it’s important that you make yourself understand the situation. I realised that it’s not healthy if I slip into pity. That feeling isn’t good as you won’t be able to perform well when you get a chance,” Umesh had said.

Those who know Umesh say he isn’t someone to let things affect him beyond a point.

One of his friends sold him a flat at nearly double the market rate. But Yadav didn’t lose his cool when he realised he had been taken for a ride. “He just brushes the topic aside if someone brings it up,” another close friend said. Yadav is someone who blindly trusts his friends and those in his inner circle. His manager recently allegedly duped him of Rs 44 lakhs.

Umesh, known as Bablu back home, does not have a bad bone in his body, his friends say. He is also not a people pleaser and does not believe in image-building on social media.

His old coach Pritam Gandhe says there is no Chal-Kapat (shrewdness to cheat people) when it comes to Umesh.

“He is a straightforward boy. He is not the one who will do his own brand building exercise. His life is limited to his bowling, fitness and family. You will never see him in any controversy. He doesn’t do showbaazi,” Gandhe, who spotted him during a tennis-ball game, said.

However, Umesh did have one regret. Missing out when the team was announced for the 50-over World Cup in 2019. He did express his disappointment to this correspondent on the sidelines of a Ranji Trophy game he was playing for Vidarbha.

But he soon put the disappointment behind him. The warrior tattoo on his left arm is a reminder that he needs to keep fighting to remain high in the pecking order of India’s fast bowlers.

And when he delivers, like he did on Thursday morning, the celebrations will be muted. A smile,a glance skywards and while wearing the expression of a man who knows success can be fleeting.

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