3 reasons why Kuldeep Yadav could be India's X-factor at the T20 World Cup 2024

India v Australia: Final - ICC Men
Kuldeep Yadav has a lot going for him ahead of the T20 World Cup.

At this time last year, Kuldeep Yadav was struggling to stay in contention to represent India in T20Is. Ravi Bishnoi had taken over as the country's best leg-spinner and Yuzvendra Chahal, too, was finding it difficult to keep up.

One year, two IPLs and a resounding ODI comeback later, Kuldeep is heading to the 2024 men's T20 World Cup in the West Indies and the United States as a sure-shot starter and India's biggest weapon with the ball. Bishnoi is out of the team; Chahal is there but is unlikely to start ahead of his left-armer friend.

Kuldeep and India both would know he's the x-factor for a team that is carrying a lot of doubts over its construction. If he can win the first few matches, all doubts will disappear and hope will be restored. Here's why he can do that:

#3 Excellent IPL form on flat tracks and small grounds

India will play all of their league-stage games in the US, which will offer them small grounds and drop-in pitches which are usually even and flat. Generally, that's not a good thing for bowlers but Kuldeep is different, he has always been.

In IPL 2024, his franchise Delhi Capitals hosted their seven group-stage games at two of the flattest tracks - Vizag and Delhi. Kuldeep picked up 12 wickets from six of these games, including figures of 4/55 against one of the best batting lineups in the tournament - the SunRisers Hyderabad, taking out three of their best batters.

When most wrist spinners and orthodox tweakers will struggle at these venues, the extra bounce Kuldeep can generate and the pace with which he's bowling now would prove difficult for most batters, making him crucial to India's success.

#2 New batters generally find it difficult to read his variations

Kuldeep has straightened his bowling arm and shortened his run-up during his comeback from the knee injury which almost derailed his career. This has not only made his bowling more vigorous but also his variations much more effective.

This change surprised even those batters who have faced him multiple times in his career. He was difficult to pick and get away. Now, imagine the situation of newer teams like Canada and the USA who'll face him for the first time. Even watching hours of footage of his bowling might not help them much.

Some players from Pakistan, New Zealand, and England would be facing him for the first time since the change and he, too, will have new tricks in the bag for them. Rohit Sharma would enjoy having such a bowler on his side.

#3 Kuldeep Yadav has always been one for the big moments

Finally, Kuldeep has an excellent record in ICC tournaments. At the 2023 World Cup, he was India's best bowler for the first half of the tournament, until Mohammed Shami took over and the spinner wasn't needed that much anymore. Still, he concluded with 15 wickets in 11 games at an average of 28.27.

In the past year, he has stood up for India in most of the difficult and high-pressure moments across formats -- like the Rajkot Test against England when Ravichandran Ashwin wasn't available. You can expect something similar from him at his first T20 World Cup, where he'll definitely have a point to prove.

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