Have we witnessed the end of Kuldeep Yadav in Indian colours?
The wrist-spinner, who was taken to the cleaners by Tom Latham in the first ODI (2-84), warmed the bench in the following matches.
Updated - Feb 14, 2020 11:38 am
Virat Kohli and his Indian charges looked right on course to transfer their rich vein of form into the ODIs when a Shreyas Iyer-inspired batting display piloted them to a mammoth 347/4 in 50 overs. The outcome was always going to rest on the merit supplied by the Indian bowlers on a crisp Seddon Park track, but it looked all too easy for the New Zealand middle-order to express itself with minimal risk and subsequently take the Black Caps over the line for the first time in the ongoing bilateral series.
The new ball hardly bore fruit as the opening wicket of a lethal Martin Guptill fell post the 15th over mark, but with two quick breakthroughs, India should have taken the game by the scruff of its neck in the middle overs. That was not meant to be, as a hapless Kuldeep Yadav, alongside some of his compatriots, looked out of ideas against an experienced liege lord in Ross Taylor.
The left-arm chinaman, who as recently as the beginning of last year was like a new breed of personalised pedigree blooded into the game’s fences, has seen himself shoved to the peripheries of the Indian team under recent pressure.
The wrist-spinner, who was taken to the cleaners by Tom Latham in the first ODI (2-84), warmed the bench in the following matches. This downgrading trend has not been as recent, however, and here we analyse his chances in the famous blue of India during this barren spell of form.
Early rise and the magic of wrist spin
Wrist spin, as it is, has emerged as one of the trendiest cricketing activities since the turn of the century, with a host of international spinners rising to fame in their formative years. The spark produced by the wrists holds an aura within itself, as seen in the case of Mayank Markande, for example. The former MI spinner trumped the Chennai Super Kings in his first-ever IPL game but lost the race for a spot in the playing XI to Rahul Chahar last season. Wrist spin requires innovation, both around and beyond itself.
Yadav meanwhile, rose through the ranks at domestic level for Uttar Pradesh, before being snapped up by the Kolkata Knight Riders in 2014. He made his first appearance for the two-time champions in the now-defunct Champions League T20.
He took little time to adapt to the arduous game of IPL, picking up six wickets in just three outings back in 2016. He then cemented his spot in the next couple of editions, scalping 12 and 17 wickets. A national call-up, which was on the cards for quite sometime, then came to Yadav.
The 25-year-old took the opportunity with both hands, often perplexing batsmen with his unique skill set and ability to break the flow of the opposition batting. He became the fastest Indian spinner to 100 ODI wickets, achieving the feat in just 58 matches. While Kuldeep struck two hat-tricks for India, he also became a recipient of a five-wicket haul in each of the three formats. His wrists were weaving magic.
The Test rebuff
However, his abnormal dip in form has portrayed a typical fall from grace. Kuldeep was axed from India’s Test squad for their forthcoming red-ball series against the Kiwis, as well as dropped for the last two ODIs – with his side ending up on the wrong side of the result on both occasions.
Now, this may not necessarily concern with his recent performances in whites. The issues have been on the brim since 2019, most significantly when the Kanpur-born cricketer was forced to hide his tears in the IPL after a dreadful performance against RCB. He was guilty of a poor bowling average of 71.50 last season, having claimed just four wickets in nine matches.
A meagre six wickets, striking at 67 summed up his World Cup, whereas a view of the larger picture underpins his torrid time since July 2019, where his average has fallen to a decimal just over 45. In the simplest of terms, Kuldeep averages double in 2019 than he did in 2018 when he also picked up more wickets at a cheaper economy. Only once in the last five ODIs has Kuldeep conceded less than 60 runs – a figure speaking volumes of the player’s miscalculation of basics and plain lack of confidence.
Have batsmen started decoding Kuldeep Yadav?
Kuldeep certainly remains a premium wicket-taker but holds hardly any of the impact he did about 12 months ago. That said, one mustn’t ignore the fact that his heat map with the ball projects a fearless trajectory and landing where most of the deliveries are fuller, tempting the batsman to lunge.
Latham’s effort (69 off 48), for instance, in the first ODI was commendable to say the least, but it was his footwork, reading of the bowler’s arm and steady head that stole the show. He grasped both Kuldeep’s body language and the flip of the wrists, nullifying the degree of spin by approaching the ball with intent and plundering it across all parts of the ground.
The bowler on the contrary, wasn’t smart in retaliating. Kuldeep should have pegged his length back, dragged it a little wider more often or slowed it down – a technique that occasionally prevents deliveries from landing at the half-volley zone where batsmen can get under the spin. There’s a stark contrast between a daring piece of bowling and proactive, adaptive attacking. Kuldeep needs to reinstall the latter dimension in his armoury.
What next for the chinaman?
As of now, due to the harsh reality posted by international cricket, and Indian cricket in specific, Kuldeep must press reset, reassess his game and look to develop new ideas while sticking to his strengths. After all, its these strong notes of his that have taken him to the pinnacle of international cricket.
The likes of Shreyas Gopal, Rahul Chahar, Krishnappa Gowtham and even young Ravi Bishnoi to a notable extent, are poised to knock the doors in the white-ball format, while the Indian hierarchy seems to be relocating their faith in the tried and tested, the experienced duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. That may not mean the closure of Kuldeep’s international career; surely not in limited-overs.
He will be given a go in the forthcoming series versus South Africa before the entire attention turns to the IPL. The snub may come in the form of an alarm bell, a learning curve that makes the southpaw reflect on his game on quicker pitches, or when a fast bowler and not a fellow spinner is operating from the other end. Or when the masterful cricketing brain of MS Dhoni is not behind the sticks.
Perhaps, much like other cricketers in recent days, such as Glenn Maxwell and Matt Renshaw – who both took definite breaks from the game due to mental illness and slump in form, respectively – Kuldeep may also prefer to sit on his home couch in front of a television set for a week or two.
No one is going to wait on him to return and fit in like a jigsaw piece, but a bit of a fresher could invoke what we know of him as a cricketer – gritty, wily and staunch.