“But, instead of trying to rectify the past, we can applaud the efforts of a new bowler, who took the field in challenging conditions and emerged triumphant due to a mixture of great deceptive bowling and wise observation skills”.
Young Kuldeep Yadav remained entangled in the world of “what ifs” after he displayed an exemplary display of chinaman bowling at Kingsmead, Durban, which helped the Indian team romp home with an easy victory. Overlooked for the Test series against the hosts, the 23-year old bowler combined beautifully with Yuzvendra Chahal to stall South Africa’s charge in the final overs of the innings, eventually ensuring that they could post no more than 269 runs on the board.
But it is not only his staggering average since the Champions Trophy that has thrust him into such an indispensable role in the Indian dressing room. Since the tournament in England, he has picked up 25 wickets with an economy rate of 4.75 runs per over. When combined with a strike rate of 29.2, one gets a slight glimpse of the skills possessed by the bowler and the reasons why stalwarts like Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin have been cast aside in the LOI set-up.
Playing his first match in South Africa, where the pitches were expected to be vastly different from the ones that Yadav has played on before, doubts and questions over his effectiveness refused to die down. Ever since the revolution of the Indian fast bowling line-up, the spinners have been relegated to a secondary position in overseas conditions. Their emergence has paralleled Ashwin and Jadeja’s lack of form away from home, and since the last couple of years, the Virat Kohli-led side had almost gotten acclimatised to a series of no-shows by their slower bowlers.
While Ashwin averages 32.91 in his overall ODI career, away from home, the same average leap-frogs above 40. For Jadeja, the stats are even worse- a bowling average of 35.87 climbs up to 51.15 in seaming conditions and even though the Indians remained hushed, the silent glances of worry did not remain absent.
Enter Yadav with his flighted deliveries and his googlies; his chinaman variations and his wrist spin. Garbed with a truckload of confidence and maturity, the player soon stole the thunder away from the former spinners, and along with Chahal, helped develop the Indian bowling squad into a potent one indeed.
In Kingsmead, a stadium where India never really tasted much success, the cricketer was at his astute and shrewd self, displaying great wisdom, which a 15-ODI-old player is hardly expected to contain. He was at his foxy best against Aiden Markram, who had trouble reading the arm-ball and the googlies. Appearing befuddled, the batsman kept pushing himself to the back-foot, to allow more time to adjust to the deliveries.
Even Faf du Plessis appeared unsure of the turn on offer and even though he raced to a splendid century, he often found little or no answer to Yadav’s spin, choosing to defend the deliveries in the early stage of the innings.
Yadav had been expensive in his first spell, but Kohli’s belief in his spin duo and his words of encouragement, wherein, he hardly chose the way of chastisement even if they go for a few runs in the quest for wickets, pepped the bowler further and he got his first wicket when JP Duminy was unable to get hold of a googly, which eventually went on to castle the stumps behind. The batsman, who had been unable to read the wrong ‘uns by the bowler, was outdone by a delivery that spun back in.
Six deliveries later, he had David Miller caught at short cover off a normal leg-spinning ball and with South Africa reeling at 134-5; India fancied their chances in the game.
But the arrival of Chris Morris threatened to outdo all the good work that had been done by the bowlers. In quick time, the score had well-crossed 200 and with ten overs still to go in the innings, a target in excess of 290 was on the board. A fabulous shot by the hard-hitting batsman off Yadav in the fortieth over had well and truly allowed the hosts to gain back their lost momentum and just when one had assumed that Yadav will be unable to recover from the onslaught, he pitched in with a delivery that went on to suggest his keen observation skills and his self-belief.
“It is easier to bowl to batsmen who play their shots. The chances of getting them out are even higher.”
Unfazed by the maximum, Yadav bowled an even slower delivery to Morris. He knew that he could be smashed around for another six, but he also knew that if he bowled a top-spinner, the ball could be mishit towards the off side, towards the bigger boundary. He took his chances and two deliveries later, he had his wicket, exactly as he had pictured it in his mind.
“I took the chance. I always think if I try to bowl to contain I will concede more runs.”
It is due to this ability and his thought process that Yadav could have been a strong arsenal in India’s Test side. Not only would his presence have provided a variety in the line-up, his similar wrist positions for the googly and the chinaman could have bamboozled the rivals. With Ashwin overtly relying on his off-spin and carom balls, he often ceases to be effective against the right-handers in overseas conditions, and this is where Yadav could have been a great pick.
But, instead of trying to rectify the past, we can applaud the efforts of a new bowler, who took the field in challenging conditions and emerged triumphant due to a mixture of great deceptive bowling and wise observation skills.