Making most of his chance

Making most of his chance

MR DEPENDABLE: Indian speedster Umesh Yadav has been the go-to man for skipper Virat Kohli in sub-continental conditions. PTI

"If I keep thinking about the past, then I won’t be able to focus on the upcoming games. I just try to do well whenever I receive a chance,” Umesh Yadav had said three days ago.

The Indian speedster appears to be a strong follower of his words. In India’s total of 11 Tests in 2018, Umesh has just featured in four of them. The numbers didn’t matter to him during the second Test against the West Indies here. Driven by his policy to focus on the present, the man from Nagpur, being India’s only fast bowler in the game, finished with a match-haul of 10 wickets.

With 75 wickets, Umesh is India’s second most successful bowler in Tests behind Mohammed Shami (87) since 2015. But 19 of Umesh’s 29 games have been at home. His team-mates, the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Shami and now Jasprit Bumrah have been preferred over Umesh for tours outside the sub-continent.

For battles in Asia, especially in India, Umesh has been one of India’s trusted men. In his seven games, the 30-year-old has picked 25 wickets at home last year. Overall, Umesh is India’s highest wicket-taker in 2017 with 31 scalps, ahead of Mohammed Shami (19).    

Constantly touching the 140kph mark, Umesh is an aggressive bowler. The right-arm medium pacer’s strong appetite for wickets makes him a potent customer on surfaces which have little help for the pacers. On dead tracks, Umesh bends his back to produce mean bouncers. Then there is his natural ability of reverse swing bowling.

Skills apart, Umesh can deliver vigorous spells, running in with same intensity all day. His impressive endurance level was witnessed in the second Test where India lost second pacer Shardul Thakur due to injury in the fourth over of the match. That increased Umesh’s workload but he passed the stiff test.

“Not many people realise but he is a very, very talented bowler. He can bowl you unplayable deliveries every now and then which we experience in the ‘nets’ all the time. He will just bowl a ball which you feel you couldn’t have done anything else except getting out. It’s just that he is gaining more confidence about his own game. Especially in Test cricket, he has come a long way and he understands his bowling really well,” said skipper Virat Kohli.

Despite his good strike rate of 55.0, it’s his accuracy that needs improvement. In his relentless attack-mode, Umesh has the tendency to lose control and bowl boundary balls. On his bad days at office, he strays on the leg side too much. This has resulted him in squandering his chance to the more probing Ishant or to the disciplined Bhuvneshwar. This year, Bumrah, with his guile, has joined the pace pack.

However, Umesh might feel unlucky to have received minimal opportunities to prove his mettle in overseas conditions. His match-winning performance at the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium might have brought him closer to another away-series. Kohli hinted that Umesh could make the cut to the upcoming tour of Australia.

“Umesh is right up there to be featuring in Australia because he has got the pace, he has the got the fitness levels to run in all day, picks up wickets at crucial times and he gets good bounce as well. Four Tests in Australia can be brutal because the ball doesn’t do much like England. So you have to come in and run in all day and hit the right area with pace. It’s a great headache to have because all our pacers are doing well,” Kohli said.

It was at Perth, in 2012, that Umesh bagged his first five-wicket haul (5/93). Given a chance, the Vidarbha bowler will be eager to shine again Down Under.