T20 World Cup 2024: Tweak behind Kuldeep’s turnaround

What he does right is that he bowls intelligently, using angles at the crease, changing the pace of the ball, and bringing out the googly when the batters are getting used to a particular angle of turn.
Last Updated : 26 June 2024, 23:02 IST

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Barbados: At a time when the cricketing world is trying to establish which alternate planet or paradigm Jasprit Bumrah is from, Kuldeep Yadav is making a case for being an outlier himself. 

The left-arm wrist spinner may or may not feature in the pantheon of Indian greats at the end of his career, but he has been a match-winner for India over the last two years across all formats, not bad for someone who spent most of his early career ferrying drinks. 

In fact, even at this T20 World Cup, Kuldeep was not used in the first three games in Long Island in the United States of America, and he was not going to feature in the game in Lauderhill either. Imagine being the best spinner in the side - a tag given to him by the team, mind you - and not getting a chance to strap on the boots and make batters look silly?

Axar Patel was chosen ahead of him because the management trusted his batting would lend more meat to the lower order. Turns out, they were right. But, that still didn’t change the fact that Kuldeep was carrying drinks, again. A role, he claims, he did very well. 

Kuldeep has reached a point in his life where he doesn’t need to sweat the small stuff. He, finally, knew his worth and knew they would call on him once the flight crossed the Caribbean Sea to the four West Indian islands.

With Mohammed Siraj relegated to drinks duty, Kuldeep was inserted into the playing 11 for India’s first game against Afghanistan at the Kensington Oval. 

He was a bit rusty, dropping in the odd long hop, but by and large, merited figures of 2 for 32 from four. Bumrah had figures of 3 for 7 from four overs in that game so Kuldeep could afford to be a bit wayward. 

Against Bangladesh on Friday, the pitch at North South was more in favour of the spinners. Bumrah would still finish with 2 for 13 from four overs, but that’s because he’s a freak. Kuldeep, relatively speaking, is somewhat conventional. Yes, you don’t see left-arm wrist spin too often, but there’s nothing extraordinarily unusual about him. 

What he does right is that he bowls intelligently, using angles at the crease, changing the pace of the ball, and bringing out the googly when the batters are getting used to a particular angle of turn. 

On Monday for instance, he was quite scratchy, bowling a fair few short balls, but he had reduced the pace on the ball so it was hard for the Australians to get under it so they dinked him about for figures of 2 for 24 from four overs. 

But Kuldeep’s impact was not so much in the runs he gave away. It was in that slowed-down googly be bowled to dismiss Glenn Maxwell at a crucial juncture. India would take control there and not let go. That’s what Kuldeep brings to the table: certainty. 

Former India skipper and legendary leg-spinner Anil Kumble explained on television what has made Kuldeep this hard to pick. 

“First of all, Kuldeep has gotten fitter, much stronger,” he said. “What he has changed over a couple of years since he has been doing well in all formats, has been his run-up, the angle he’s bowling from. 

“Initially, he was too acute, when you’re coming like that, you’re literally bowling from behind your head. You won’t get the body behind the ball, you need to constantly, as a young spinner, you need the body to be going towards the batter. Left-hander or right-hander, doesn’t matter. If you go straight through, then you’re much stronger. He has changed his angle of run-up. It’s not always about what you do at the crease, but also about what you do in the lead-up to it. He’s much straighter now, meaning he is getting his body behind the ball and that’s why he has the extra pace. Turn is still there, has all the variations, and now he’s quicker.”

But on a day he had to slow it down, he did, and that’s what matters at this level: adaptability and cunning. 

Kuldeep is exceptional at both, only Bumrah does it better, but then again, there’s no shame in that.

Published 26 June 2024, 23:02 IST

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