‘Kuldeep Yadav is quite confident as a bowler now’ says Rohit Sharma

Kuldeep Yadav doesn’t say much about how he feels with being dropped frequently though his childhood coach gave a hint to this newspaper. “He has understood that he will have to perform in all the matches, he can’t afford to do badly in even one game otherwise, he won’t even get these odd opportunities,” Kapil Pandey told The Indian Express.

How does Kuldeep feel about it? “Whatever opportunities I get, I try to do my best and back my abilities. When you play, you have to be focused while you can be relaxed when you aren’t in the 11. However, team combinations are important, I don’t think too much about it, just focused on doing my best when the chances come,” Kuldeep said at the end of the second ODI where he shone with three wickets, outwitting the Sri Lankan batsmen with his variations that were delivered at varying pace.

The former bowling coach Bharat Arun had once dispelled the perceptions against Kuldeep to this newspaper. “It’s not pace that we want from him. All I want from him is to get more vigour through the crease. Getting that vigour is a combination of working more on the bowling and getting fitter. Vigour doesn’t mean firing it quicker. It’s not just about the speed. Once you get that vigour through the crease, the body comes fully into the action, you get more fizz. All components of the body involved in the action work together – more ripping turn, more fizz, more loop. Remember the ball he (Kuldeep) bowled in the 2019 World Cup to dismiss Babar Azam? It had everything. Kuldeep knows what he can do and I believe he can make a strong comeback. A spinner really matures when he is 27-28 and if he maintains fitness after that, he has 10 years of career. I think Kuldeep will get there,” Arun had told this newspaper.

It does look like Kuldeep is getting there. The topspinner with which he trapped Kusal Mendis, Sri Lanka’s No. 3 batsman, was a beauty. A 87.1 kmph delivery, it looped and went straight on with the angle. Mendis played for the turn, inside the line but it hissed past the edge to trap the back foot in front of the stumps. A googly would have missed the off or the batsman might have read it, of course. It had to be a perfect topspinner to do what it did to get Mendis out and Kuldeep had it absolutely bang on- the release, the trajectory, the pace, the length, and the line.

“I am enjoying my bowling. You need to keep innovating, you can’t keep bowling at the same pace,” Kuldeep said.

He played a couple of good shots too to seal the chase and said that he has been working on his batting. “I’ve worked on my batting, I keep my focus on that whenever I don’t get a game. In the last one year, I’ve worked a lot also on my fitness, all credit to the NCA coaches. It has helped me get into a rhythm and be more aggressive. Yuzi [Yuzvendra Chahal] has always supported me, obviously he knew how the batters play having played the earlier games so he keeps advising me.”

The captain Rohit Sharma too sounded satisfied with his spinner. “ For him (Kuldeep Yadav) to come back and play the game he played today, it was fantastic. Literally got us back in the game. They were batting run-a-ball and Kuldeep, as we’ve seen quite often, comes and gets the wicket. He’s quite confident as a bowler right now and it definitely augurs well with the team.”

It does augur well but it remains to be seen if Rohit and Rahul Dravid will give Kuldeep a more consistent run.

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