Kuldeep could be potent Down Under

FAST LEARNER: Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav (right) could be a potent weapon for skipper Virat Kohli when India travel to Australia at the end of the year. AFP

In their very first Test of the four-match series against Australia at Adelaide four years ago, India opted for the uncapped Karn Sharma over the experienced R Ashwin. The decision backfired emphatically.

The leg-break bowler managed just four wickets. It hurt India more that it was spin that proved decisive to the match's outcome. Aussie off-spinner Nathan Lyon, despite a steely century by skipper Virat Kohli in a thrilling chase, turned the game hosts' way with a seven-wicket effort and finished the match with a 12-wicket haul.  

Another four-Test series Down Under beckons Virat Kohli's men with the first Test beginning from December 6. In R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, India aren't short of experience in the spin department. To their advantage, Kuldeep Yadav, a dangerous customer in the limited overs formats, is striving hard to raise his game in red-ball cricket too. 

Incidentally, Kuldeep's maiden Test was against the Australians in Dharamsala. Despite his rousing debut, where his four-wicket haul in the first innings was one of the highlights of India's big victory, the chinaman bowler's Test career hasn't taken off. 

After a reality check in England, Kuldeep is a confident man now. Sent back from the Old Blighty after getting just a single game at Lord's, Kuldeep's busy red-ball cricket schedule at home has produced encouraging results. 

A five-wicket haul against Australia 'A' was followed by a fifer against the West Indies in the first of the two Tests at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium (SCA) in Rajkot. 

"I worked with my coach for four-five days, concentrated a lot on bowling around the wicket as well as over the wicket, on my release, also on the pace since in one-day cricket your pace increases. But when you play Test cricket you have to ‘air’ the ball hoping that the batsman would take his chance. I worked on all that," Kuldeep had said after his maiden Test five-wicket haul. 

One striking point of Kuldeep's performance at the SCA was his variations. He foxed the batsmen with his googlies. The drift that he achieved kept the batsmen guessing. 

Kuldeep also showed he is a thinking bowler. The West Indies batsmen found him easy to score off in the first innings. In the second essay, Kuldeep showed his craft – he made adjustments in his length and mixed his deliveries to make an immediate impact.  

"I leaked runs (in the first innings) because of my flight. I had to control it and then tried to be more accurate. I tried to plug the runs. I made them hard to score freely," he had said. 

In the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner, two quality players, Kuldeep might be a crucial weapon for India on the Australian pitches that could offer him the kind of bounce that any spinner craves for. 

The fact that the England batsmen worked with spin bowling machine to handle Kuldeep's guile is a testimony to the Indian's abilities. The Australians will have to work hard if Kuldeep is in his zone. 

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