Under the SKanner: Umesh Yadav
I remember very vividly how I used to get up at 5 AM on every match day back in 2011 when India toured Australia in a quest to defend the Border-Gavaskar trophy. But those aren’t all good memories!
I would switch on the TV anxiously to see if the Indian openers were still batting or if Michael Clarke had found a way to get out. But I was disappointed most of the time. As it turned out, India succumbed to a humiliating 4-0 loss at the hands of a balanced Aussie side that found a different match-winner in each of the four games.
On what had seemed to be their last tour down under, and it was, the Sachin-Dravid-Laxman trio looked troubled for the most part. It was as though Australian quicks took turns to humiliate Indian legends.
Ben Hilfenhaus slithered into Dravid’s defenses. The young, pacy James Pattinson entered the series as a novice and, after terrorizing the Indian batsmen all through the series, came out a recognized figure in International Cricket. And Peter Siddle won many hearts with his nagging spells.
It was a series that threw Indian Cricket into disarray. The result lead to a furore among the frenzied Indian fans. It saw two of the greatest cricketers - VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid retire from International Cricket and raised questions over India’s future in Test Cricket. It wasn’t the most pleasant time for an Indian cricket fan, like me.
However, there was something I would eagerly wait for every time I got up. The sight of a young, sinewy bowler running in at the Aussie top-order batsmen was something that thrilled me more than any Hollywood thriller ever did.
That young bowler has come long way now. He is my personal favourite, too. His name is Umesh Yadav.
Yadav, who was playing just his second series in Test Cricket, breathed life into an Indian attack which looked older and weaker with every passing session.
With Zaheer Khan showing signs of fatigue after having shouldering the burden of Indian bowling attack and Ishant Sharma not as effective as he was on his previous tour, the youngster was the only one who troubled the Australians.
It was a series that gifted a workhorse that never tires.
Yes, it showed that he wasn’t the most consistent bowler. He was erratic on occasion and kept the critics busy.
But he was something that Indian Cricket desperately needed, something they were willing to invest in, and they did. Five years gone now, after going through a few ups and downs, the fiery pacer has become the face of the Indian attack.
In the past twelve months the pacer has sent down 526.1 overs and has bagged 56 wickets. Now, what these numbers don’t reveal is the impact his contributions have had on the results.
Yadav has bowled most of those overs on pitches with very little for the pacers in them and has given breakthroughs when things seemed slipping out of control. His significance in India’s dominance in Tests is palpable.
So, what has caused his sudden rise? Here in this article we try to examine his strengths and weaknesses.
1. Consistent pace and improved control
Yadav always had pace, but it was his inconsistency that caused concerns over his place in Test side. But over the years, Yadav has matured into a reliable bowler. The lengths have changed, the consistency is there. As he said after his success in home season, he has started to focus on the process rather than worrying about the results.
Sanjay Bangar, India’s batting coach during India’s grand home season and the current assistant coach, when asked about Yadav’s growth, revealed that the quickie has been working very hard on his balance at the crease and on his run up, which is shorter than before.
All this change has happened without compromising on pace. The Vidharbha Express, as he is often called, still operates around the 140kmph mark and his nature makes the matters worse for the batsmen.
2. Bowling long spells
A fast-bowler’s body suffers a lot of strain particularly for the Indian bowlers who play a lot of Cricket with very less rest in between. And if the load isn’t managed, it can lead to injuries.
However, Yadav is naturally fit. It was very impressive the way he bowled with the same aggression and pace every time he had the ball in his hands during the home season. He was the go-to man for the new Test captain, Virat Kohli and the workhorse didn’t disappoint.
3. Added reverse swing to his arsenal
If you had to pick one major for Yadav’s late success, it would be his skill to reverse the old ball. During his initial days of his career the length used to be a lot shorter and therefore there was no reverse swing. But now, as we saw throughout the season, he has mastered the art of controlling the length and has managed to mix it up to set up the batsmen.
Credit should be given to Kohli as well for showing confidence in his fast bowler. However, this wasn’t the case earlier, as Yadav’s previous captain, MS Dhoni, was someone who preferred control to pace. It shows that the Maharashtra born pacer is enjoying playing under Kohli.
4. A natural athlete in the field and a true team man
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 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.
Death bowling in shorter formats
While Yadav is improving at a very impressive rate, there is still room for improvement in his bowling, particularly in the shorter formats. He is Virat Kohli’s first choice bowler in ODIs along with Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, another rising star of this Indian bowling unit.
Though he is a great exponent of new ball, his death bowling has been questionable. It’s that facet of his game that needs significant improvement. As there is plenty of competition in the side, the talented bowler should work on his weakness.
With some work he could be a genuine star for the country in all formats and all the fans would expect no less from him.