“Any bowling attack in the world would be lucky to have the quality of Umesh in their bowling line-up”
In 7 years of Test cricket, Umesh Yadav has never managed to cement himself as one of the pacers of the Indian team. The likes of Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar or the more recent Jasprit Bumrah seem to get the nod ahead of him in the team, yet, Umesh is a valuable asset in the team. Even when not in the XI, the Indian team can breathe a sigh of relief that Umesh is around. A fast bowler, who is a genuine wicket-taker, it is a pity that Umesh is often in the XI only when someone is either rested or injured. For his quality, does he deserve better?
In the absence of Ishant, Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah, Umesh has been handed an opportunity in both the home Tests against West Indies. In the first Test, the batsmen stole the show with some top class batting, but in this ongoing Test at Hyderabad, the bowlers had work to do after West Indies won the toss and elected to bat. Umesh was given the responsibility of leading the attack alongside debutant Shardul Thakur. Unfortunately for India, Shardul managed to bowl just 10 deliveries as he suffered a groin injury and was forced out. With no more pacers left in the XI, Umesh had a lot of work to do. It was still Day One and the conditions were not such that the three spinners can bowl all day. India needed fast bowlers to bowl on this track too.
Umesh delivered just at the right times today. His three wickets included all three set batsmen. He trapped Shai Hope in front just before lunch for 36. Shane Dowrich was looking set to get a big score, but Umesh stopped him for 30. Finally, Unesh got the big scalp of Jason Holder, who had scored 52 and added 104 for the 7th wicket with Roston Chase. Umesh not just had to do his share of bowling, but also had to bowl for his partner, who remained unavailable for the entire day. Yes, he went for boundaries and there were a few wayward deliveries. But if you are a wicket-taking bowler, that should not get you bogged down. You continue to pitch it in the right area, attack the wickets and the rewards will follow. Umesh did not follow that just today, but that’s what he has been doing throughout his career.
With the increase in competition among fast bowlers in the Indian team, Umesh has struggled to be the first choice bowler for India. After a bit of a downward curve, Umesh bounced back extremely well when he picked up 20 wickets in the Indian T20 League. His knack of picking up wickets inside the powerplay overs was quite impressive and that performance earned him a call-p in the ODI and T20I side against England. Before that, Umesh was also part of the Test side that went to South Africa in January 2018. He did not play a single game on that tour and to everyone’s surprise, Bumrah was handed a debut over Umesh.
Umesh was deprived of Test cricket for 8 months, not because he was not fit, but because India found other bowlers to fill in. He returned to the XI against Afghanistan and has done a fine job in his limited chances. Umesh managed to play just one out of the five Tests in England as well.
Even now, Umesh is just warming someone else’s seat in the Indian XI. He will be in the reckoning for the Australian series, but he is not a certain starter. Virat Kohli has his own set of bowlers he likes to play every game and sadly, Umesh does not feature in it.
At Hyderabad, Umesh has bowled a total of 23 overs – 3 overs lesser than Kuldeep Yadav, 1.2 overs lesser than Ravichandran Ashwin and 3 overs more than Ravindra Jadeja – the three spinners of the team. Considering Umesh is a fast bowler who clocks 135 to 140 KPH, bowling 23 overs in a day in that heat is no mean fit. It is a testimony to his dedication and fitness. Umesh has had his bout with injury, which kept him out of action for a year between 2012 and 2013. He could have easily broken down today as Shardul did. But he bowled every delivery like it was his first ball of the day. Ever since he has returned, he has been fitter than ever, leading India’s charge in the ICC Champions trophy 2013 and also the ICC World Cup 2015, where he finished with 17 wickets at 17.83.
Any bowling attack in the world would be lucky to have the quality of Umesh in their bowling line-up. For India however, Umesh is on the fringes, which speaks volumes about the depth of their fast bowling. Umesh never hogs the limelight, but he is a workhorse, who does not know how to stay down.