The limited-overs part of India's New Zealand tour has concluded, and it has produced mixed results for the Men in Blue. While India clean swept the Kiwis in the T20I series, they faced the massive drubbing in the One Day Internationals.
In the first ODI, India failed to defend a massive total of 347. Although none of the bowlers succeeded in providing breakthroughs at regular intervals, the performance of Kuldeep Yadav raised concerns. His spell of 84 runs in ten overs also became the third most expensive spell for a spinner in ODI cricket. Although he took two wickets, they came too late for them to have any impact on the game. This also led to him being dropped for the next two ODIs, and Yuzvendra Chahal grabbed that opportunity with both hands, taking six wickets in two games. This raised question marks over Kuldeep's place in the side.
Have batsmen figured out Kuldeep, or is it just a phase? Will Kuldeep be able to bounce back?
How it all panned out
Kuldeep had a great start to his international career. He took 67 ODI wickets in his first two years building his reputation as someone who can strike consistently in the middle overs of the innings.
The highlight of his career came when he took 17 wickets in six matches on the South African tour. His partner in crime, Yuzvendra Chahal, also took 16 wickets, and the duo demolished the South African batting line up, earning the nickname "Kul-Cha" from the fans
He continued with his excellent performances until the IPL 2019. But, the IPL had something else stored for him. IPL 2019 was the first significant challenge he faced. Kuldeep had a miserable season taking just four wickets in his nine games at a paltry average of 71.5.
His worst outing came against RCB, where he was smashed for 59 runs in his registered four overs. He was hammered for 27 runs in final over when Moeen Ali struck him for three sixes and two fours. He was seen teary-eyed after the end of his spell. It seemed like he was short of answers throughout the IPL, and this further dented his confidence severely.
A bad IPL season also had a detrimental impact on his World Cup campaign. He got just six wickets in 7 games at a pedestrian average of 56.17. This decline even continued after the World Cup and has a dull bowling average of 48.76 after the pounding that he got in IPL 2019.
The deteriorating form also gave way to team management's paying attention to his batting and fielding contributions. Since Kuldeep does not contribute much with the bat and also not the swiftest of fielders, team management started looking for other options.
Enter Ravindra Jadeja
Ravindra Jadeja is a lightning-fast fielder and also provides a great balance to the team with his batting. His exploits in the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand have also helped his case.
Since his World Cup return, Jadeja has chipped in with valuable contributions with the bat down the order. In ODIs, he has scored 261 runs in the nine innings after his return. But his gains in bowling has been ordinary. He has taken 13 wickets in 14 matches with an average of 45.69.
His entry into the playing eleven meant that only one of Chahal and Kuldeep could play. India has adopted a peculiar selection policy, where they pick Chahal in T20Is and Kuldeep in ODIs, alongside Jadeja.
Now that Chahal has performed well in the two opportunities that he got in New Zealand, the team management would like to stick with him for the next few matches. This would allow Kuldeep some time to reflect on things he should work on.
Since he is an one-dimensional cricketer, he needs to ensure that he improves in other departments too. Although he would not get much opportunity to bat, he needs to work on his fielding sincerely.
Kuldeep is a valuable asset to the team, and he needs to be taken care of. The team management needs to back him and make him feel secure about his place in the side. With age on his side, he has a lot of time at his disposal. And as soon as he gets his opportunity, he needs to make it count and bounce back hard.