"I asked Jinx (Ajinkya Rahane), and he instantly said, five bowlers. Kuldeep Yadav was the X-factor. He turned out to be the difference between the two sides." said Virat Kohli in the press conference after the home series against Australia in 2017. That was the entry of Kuldeep Yadav on the big stage.
A dramatic series tied at 1-1 heading to the decider at the picturesque Dharamsala. The wily chinaman Kuldeep Yadav picked up 4 wickets in the first innings to hand the advantage to India after early proceedings went Australia's way, which in turn helped India wrap up the series 2-1.
A chinaman, or a left-arm wrist-spinner, is hard to find. The biggest reason why Kuldeep Yadav got picked for the Test match was his mystique. The art of chinaman bowling in itself is a mystery to many. Australia, who hadn't seen Kuldeep bowl, was bamboozled as Kuldeep turned the ball all over the place.
Kuldeep Yadav had earned an IPL contract with Kolkata Knight Riders in 2016, which was long overdue after a sensational Under-19 World Cup in 2014. Sharing the dressing room with Brad Hogg, Kuldeep's career was heading in the right direction.
With Hogg playing cricket past his 40s, he emphasized the importance of fitness, along with skill, to Kuldeep Yadav, which worked wonders. Although his introduction to the international stage was through Test Cricket, it is the limited-overs game in which Kuldeep Yadav earned himself a name.
Kuldeep Yadav: A limited-overs maestro
Kuldeep Yadav debuted in ODIs for India in 2017 against West Indies. He laid the foundation for a brilliant career ahead by becoming the joint highest wicket-taker in the five-match ODI series with 8 wickets.
In the same year, Kuldeep Yadav became the third Indian to pick an ODI hat-trick against Australia at home. Kuldeep Yadav continued to impress with successful foreign tours to South Africa and England. Against England, he scalped a career-best of 6/25 in the ODI series and 5/24 in the T20 series.
A spinner's primary strength is his variations. If a batsman is not able to guess what the next ball is, the spinner has done his job. Kuldeep Yadav's unorthodox style of bowling did this job for him. In the initial stages of his career, batsmen were unable to read his spin and would, in turn, fall prey.
Kuldeep should receive due credit for this as his variation in pace and flight are unmatched in international cricket even now. But, over the years, batsmen have seemed to size up Kuldeep Yadav. His numbers are evidence of this fact.
2018 was Kuldeep's peak year. With career-best figures against England in the T20 and the ODI series, there was nothing that could stop him. But, the English batsmen in the final match of the series decided to play him out and attacked the other bowlers. The strategy worked out well for England as Kuldeep, with 9 wickets in 2 matches, ended up wicketless in the series decider, which went England's way.
Losing his touch: Kuldeep Yadav's dip in form
After the England tour, Kuldeep Yadav had a good home series against West Indies with 9 wickets in 4 matches. With the tour of Australia coming up, Kuldeep entered the picture as India's primary middle overs bowler. Australia adopted the same strategy as England, but that did not work out well for them in the T20 series as Kuldeep Yadav picked 4 wickets in 3 matches.
However, the strategy did work in the ODI series as Kuldeep managed to pick only two wickets in 2 outings.
With the World Cup around the corner, the IPL in 2019 was a marquee event for the players to be match ready for the big tournament. The IPL is where it went downhill for Kuldeep Yadav. He managed to pick 4 wickets in 9 outings with an economy of 8.66, too high for his standards.
He got dropped from the squad mid-way. The IPL was such a new low in his career that he broke down during the match against RCB in Kolkata after returning figures of 1/59.
Kuldeep Yadav was trusted with a place in the World Cup squad. The World Cup was also a below-par one for Kuldeep Yadav. He had a good match against Pakistan, dismissing set batsmen Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam to take India on the path of victory.
He managed to pick 6 wickets in 7 matches, which included a pelting against England, where he recorded figures of 1/72. The spell was a serious setback as Kuldeep Yadav picked his career-best against more or less the same England side just a year ago.
Ravindra Jadeja replaced Kuldeep Yadav midway through the World Cup as his batting added extra strength to the side, and has been a part of the side ever since. Kuldeep's ODI and T20 numbers are showing a very evident decline, which is not a good sign for Kuldeep as he aims for a permanent spot in the limited-overs side.
Kuldeep Yadav: Bowling records over the years (ODI)
There is a very evident decline in Kuldeep's bowling average, in comparison with the first two years of his career. The economy rate also is showing an increase, which is clear evidence to suggest that batsmen are reading Kuldeep Yadav better.
Kuldeep Yadav in IPL: The wickets column
The 2019 season of the IPL was horrendous season for Kuldeep Yadav. The 2020 season has started badly for Kuldeep too, as he has managed to pick only one wicket in 3 outings.
Who is leading the IPL 2020 purple cap race? Click here to see.
There is no doubt that Kuldeep Yadav is one of the best spinners of this generation. His bowling approach is very aggressive in nature. Kuldeep Yadav should try to stick to that and should not bother much about the runs column as he is a wicket-taker. To get things back on track, all Kuldeep has to do is stick to his basics and use his variations, which are his strength, wisely.Published 04 Oct 2020, 17:37 IST