Chinaman bowlers like Kuldeep Yadav are a rarity in international cricket. And if they get their act right, which is a tough job in itself, they can be very difficult to play against owing to the awkward angles they create.
The use of the wrists to spin the ball makes it deviate more sharply than traditional spinners, which is why the art is termed left-arm unorthodox spin.
India were blessed with one such genuine talent in Yadav, when he made his Test debut for the country against Australia at Dharamsala in March 2017. Yadav was an instant success with figures of 4 for 68 in the first innings. His first Test victim was none other than the dangerous David Warner whom he troubled with extra bounce, forcing him to edge one to slip.
Next, Yadav cleaned up Peter Handscomb with late drift, and bamboozled Glenn Maxwell with the wrong ‘un. In his very first international match, the youngster brought all his variations into play, and made people take notice of his talent. It seemed as if India had unearthed a gem.
Over the next two seasons, Yadav combined with another prolific spinner, leggie Yuzvendra Chahal, and the two came to be known as India’s spin twins. Cut to 2020. A month short of turning only 26, Yadav’s career already seems at the crossroads. In many ways the Australia series, in which Yadav is part of the ODI and Test squads, will be a make-or-break one for the left-arm spinner.
Why the Australia series is hugely important for Yadav
Except for the record second hat-trick against West Indies in the Visakhapatnam ODI late last year, Yadav has done precious little to inspire confidence in selectors and fans. He had a chance to prove his mettle in IPL 2020, but turned out to be a major disappointment for the second year in a row.
In five matches, Yadav only managed to grab one wicket at a strike rate of 72, and an economy rate of 7.66. Not the best preparation for a massive series like Australia, but the team management has demonstrated faith in his ability ahead of his form. The talented spinner’s lean run though is touching dangerous proportions, and if he continues to underperform Down Under, a harsh call will need to be made about him.
How it all began going wrong for Kuldeep Yadav
After a highly successful two years at the top, Yadav’s downfall began during the IPL last year. He played in nine IPL matches last year, but only managed to pick up four wickets at a strike rate of 49.50 and an economy of 8.66.
Yadav’s confidence hit an all-time low as his zing went missing, which is significant in a wrist spinner’s case, considering how difficult the art is. The bounce, drift and variations also disappeared as a Kuldeep Yadav looked completely disconnected. At his peak, critics often mentioned that Kuldeep Yadav was too slow through the air. The batsmen attacked the fragile spinner in this aspect as well, and Yadav’s struggles increased.
Mooen Ali’s onslaught on Kuldeep Yadav during RCB’s second encounter against KKR in 2019 typified the spinner’s woes. Moeen smashed 66 from only 28 balls and blasted Yadav for three sixes and two fours in his last over. The left-spinner finished with 1 for 59, and dismissing Ali off the last ball was no consolation. The forlorn look on his face was a clear indication of how down he was feeling.
The bigger worry for India though was the fact that the disastrous performance came with the World Cup to follow.
A World Cup to forget
Hoping the IPL performance would be a one-off, fans and the Indian think-tank would have backed Yadav to come good on the big stage again. After all, he had been there and done it. However, confidence can prove to be a massive factor in some cases, and so it was to be with Yadav. The Chinaman bowler, who had shone in England during the team’s previous visit, came a cropper on the grandest stage of all -- the 2019 World Cup.
He played seven matches, and only managed six wickets at an average of 56.16. Kuldeep Yadav impressed with 2 for 32 in the big match against Pakistan, but was hammered for 72 runs in the game against eventual champions England. The English batsmen took on the once-dangerous Yadav with utmost ease, and the spinner had no tricks up his sleeves as an answer.
Woeful form continues…
When West Indies visited India towards the end of last year, Kuldeep Yadav grabbed a hat-trick in the second ODI, but went wicketless in the other two matches. The Australia ODIs followed, and this time the left-arm spinner could only register figures of 0 for 55 and 2 for 65.
Despite his poor form, India carried Yadav to New Zealand. He was given a chance in the Hamilton ODI, but was slammed for 84 in his 10 overs as the Kiwis chased down 348 with ease.
Kuldeep Yadav has had better moments in the T20I format. He produced decent figures of 2 for 26 in the close Hamilton T20I (Yadav isn’t part of the T20I squad in Australia). However, such performances have been few and far in between. If Kuldeep Yadav continues to underperform in Australia, another bright career could, unfortunately, be heading in the wrong direction.Published 14 Nov 2020, 13:48 IST