Kuldeep Yadav in the hunt to finish as the leading international wicket-taker in 2018
While everyone is talking about Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, another great news for India has been the emergence of a wicket-taking spinner in ODIs. Kuldeep Yadav's current form is close to - if not better than - that of Anil Kumble during the mid 90's. Only Rashid Khan has taken more wickets this year (48) than Kuldeep (45) in ODIs. The left-arm spinner's wickets have come at an average of 20.07 and an economy rate of 4.74.
While both wrist spinners have been in stunning form through the year, a point to be noted is that most of Rashid's wickets have come against teams ranked lower than number eight. Meanwhile, most of Kuldeep's wickets have come against top teams. Another interesting aspect is that Kuldeep was the top wicket-taker in South Africa, England and UAE (during the Asia Cup). Remarkably, he was touring all the countries for the first time.
Kuldeep, along with fellow spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, impressed one and all during the six-match ODI series in South Africa earlier in the year. The chinaman exponent picked 17 wickets in the series. The spin duo's unexpected performances on quick and bouncy South African wickets provided India with a historic maiden ODI series victory on South African soil. Aside from winning the series by a convincing margin of 5-1, the series was also instrumental in reaffirming the importance of wrist spinners in India's limited overs cricket.
Incidentally, Kuldeep and Chahal were also the highest wicket-takers in the T20I series against Ireland with seven and six wickets respectively. In the very next T20I series against England, Kuldeep also finished as the second-highest wicket taker and took a rare five-wicket haul in a T20l. Hardik Pandya only managed one more wicket in the series than Kuldeep's five.
Kuldeep was again the highest wicket taker in the three-match ODI series in and against England, with nine wickets from three matches, followed by Adil Rashid's six. He shared the leading-wicket taker's spot in the Asia Cup in the UAE with ten wickets - the same as Mustafizur Rahman and Rashid Khan. Missing the first match of the series, Kuldeep again finished the leading wicket-taker with nine wickets in the recently concluded ODI series against West Indies. This was India's last ODI series for the year.
Currently averaging less than 25 with the ball in all three formats, Kuldeep is picking wickets at the rate of more than two per limited overs game and almost four wickets per Test match from his 50 international outings thus far. His traditional action, considerable side-spin and a deceptive wrong-un are reminiscent of Australia's two-time World Cup-winning chinaman bowler Brad Hogg.
In all formats, Kuldeep is currently the second leading wicket-taker (Tests, ODI's and T20I's) in international cricket this year with 67 wickets. Rashid tops the charts with 72 scalps. But with his inclusion in the squad for all the six T20Is and four Tests India are yet to play this year, there is a great chance Kuldeep will finish this year as the leading wicket-taker in international cricket.