Tracking Umesh Yadav’s evolution into a reliable fast bowler
Umesh Yadav is a less celebrated member of this squad, but his contributions have been crucial for the team's wins at home.
At a time when India’s search for an out and out fast bowler seemed never ending, Umesh Yadav quickly rose through the ranks to be labelled as the one to watch out for.
With an easily repeatable action, the lad from Deoria would run in smoothly and fire the ball towards the batsman at discomforting pace. Starting his professional cricket in 2008, Umesh was one of those few bowlers who could hit the bat hard due to their slippery pace.
As destiny would have it, the man who wanted to be a policeman, earned his maiden Test call-up in 2011 thus becoming the 271st Test player for India.
In his very first series, which happened to be against West Indies, Umesh picked up 9 wickets from two Tests and earned himself a place in the squad that toured Australia. Though India had a horror series, he stood out by picking up 14 wickets from four Tests.
Against a quality line-up that boasted of names such as Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke, the right-armer operated with significant pace and received praise for his commendable effort.
Following the success in Australia, he was selected for the series against New Zealand and England at home in 2012 wherein he bagged nine wickets from three matches. Unfortunately, he was not able to seal his place in the side due to injuries.
Umesh came back into the squad for the 2014 tour of Australia. Despite picking up 11 wickets, he leaked runs aplenty. On pitches with good carry, he would bowl quite a few unplayable deliveries which troubled even the best of batsmen.
But he remained wayward for the most part. His inconsistency left the captain fuming and the experts wondering if he could survive the demanding nature of Test cricket. While there was never a doubt about his talent, Umesh was still a work in progress.
While the quickie has put up decent performances in Test cricket, his one-day career has been a topsy-turvy one. Making his debut in a triangular series in Zimbabwe way back in 2010, wherein he picked up a lone wicket in three matches, Umesh had been in and out of the team.
As things got worse, he was sidelined owing to a string of better performances from Mohammed Shami and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. However, the workhorse was back in the scheme of things following his success in the five-match series against Sri Lanka in 2014. He helped seal a memorable 5-0 whitewash by picking up 10 wickets.
His biggest breakthrough came in the 2015 World Cup. With 18 wickets, Umesh ended the tournament as the most successful Indian bowler.
Also Read: Trappings of a lethal bowling unit
As the 2016/17 home season beckoned, the focus was on turning tracks and the spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. It felt as though the faster bowlers would only be supporting pillars. While Umesh has done that perfectly, he has also been mighty impressive by bagging 27 wickets in 12 matches.
Sending down a total of 327 overs, he has been spot on with his consistency in pace, line and length. In the series against England, at times the batsmen seemed impregnable. But it was Umesh who provided the breakthroughs and paved way for the Indian spinners to complete the task.
The right arm pacer has gotten better with the number of games he has played. While he believes there’s no compromising with pace, his line and lengths have become much tighter now. A player like him is a delight for any captain.
Umesh Yadav’s Test numbers over the years
More Economical, at the same pace
With his pace still hovering around the 140 mark, his economy rate of 2.64 in this season has been very impressive. By delivering 75 maidens from almost 327 overs, he has maintained the pressure to a remarkable extent.
This, in turn, helped the spinners reap rewards at the other end. His economy rate over the years has gone down gradually thus showing his improved control.
Umesh Yadav’s performance at home since 2015
Added reverse swing to his repertoire
With Ashwin/Jadeja doing what they do best, Umesh has added teeth to the bowling attack by reversing the ball at pace. Generating in-swing as well as out-swing with the older ball, he has troubled the visiting batsmen. Joining hands with Shami, Umesh has formed a potent pace pairing which could prove to be a handful when the next round of away series begins.
Picks up top order batsmen
In what is an impressive stat, 81% of Umesh’s wickets are either top-order or middle-order batsmen. He has the knack of making early inroads and then returning to break stubborn partnerships.
A great athlete in the field
Fielding is, was and will be a quintessential part of the game irrespective of the format. The athletic Umesh is one of the better fielders in the side. He has got safe hands and a sharp throw. His throw to effect David Miller’s run out in the 2015 World Cup reiterates his ability in the field.
From 29 Tests and 56 innings, Umesh has picked up 80 wickets. The numbers in themselves are not satisfying. But having played bulk of the matches in the subcontinent, where spinners take majority of the wickets, his numbers are notable. After all, numbers do not tell the entire story.
(*Note: All the statistics in this article are accurate as of 8th March, 2017)