I hope to see Kuldeep in Tests, says personal coach

Kapil Pandey, who nurtured India’s first notable chinaman bowler, discusses his strengths and reveals that his ward is also a handy batsman.

The way Kuldeep foxed the Australians at Eden Gardens was a visual treat and bodes well for his future.   -  K.R. DEEPAK

Kuldeep Yadav may be a rookie in international cricket, and there have been players who have shone brightly in the arena, and then faded away. But his equanimity under limelight and belief in his abilities sets him apart. A revealing moment was when he shrugged off the halo of his hat-trick feat against Australia last month, admitting there would be lean days in future.

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Ahead of his first international — though he isn’t in the playing XI — in his hometown against New Zealand, his coach Kapil Pandey discussed a few pointers on his single-minded focus. “I told him to imbibe qualities from Sachin (Tendulkar) and (Rahul) Dravid, and having served in the Navy, I cannot tolerate any compromise with discipline,” Pandey told Sportstar. “I am especially strict on time,” he said.

Inculcating good habits served him well. In the 2014 U-19 World Cup, Kuldeep secured a piece of spotlight by taking a hat-trick against Scotland. But his coach admits “he was only a kid then” and there have been transformations on many fronts by the time he took his ODI hat-trick.

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“In international cricket, against the best in the world at the highest level, a hat-trick assumes more significance. Since his U-19 feat, he has improved his chinaman (his stock ball), the googly and has developed varieties. He has become more mature, learning to handle pressure, and to use his intelligence,” Pandey added.

The way he foxed the Australians at Eden Gardens was a visual treat and bodes well for his future. Pandey believes his credentials as a chinaman bowler does not represent his full worth on the cricket field. “His batting hasn’t been discussed, but he is a good all-rounder who is capable of holding his own with the bat,” he revealed. “Moreover, even as a chinaman bowler, he can bowl well from both ‘over the wicket’ and ‘around the wicket’,” Pandey pointed, suggesting Kuldeep’s capability to adapt well to challenges.

“I hope to see him in Tests. Kuldeep can bowl well on any type of surface, and with his expertise in both off-break (googly) and leg-break (chinaman) he can be a match-winner in Tests,” he reasoned.

A permanent spot in Tests, however, is a more difficult proposition. Not only are Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin two very good spinners — in fact, two of the best in the world, according to the rankings — they are also handy batsmen. Kuldeep may have taken two four-wicket hauls in two Tests, but he is at best a reserve spinner, or one who could gain a short-term spot upon the specific requirement of a wrist spinner in the squad.

But he could carve a niche for himself, not only as a spinner of exotic variety but also a particularly attacking one. He admitted in the past to being at ease in that role. This penchant has also taken some shaping. Pandey recollects Kuldeep has in the past been jittery about being hit by the batsman. “Woh darne laga tha (he was beginning to feel scared). I encouraged him to keep providing more flight and drift to his deliveries, even after he’s been attacked by the batsman, kyunki batsman usi jagah pe galti karega (because the batsman will make a mistake in that attacking mode),” he said.

Nonetheless, Pandey expressed pride at his ward’s promising run in international cricket so far. He credits the selectors for their belief in Kuldeep, and the guidance from Jadeja and current spin partner Yuzvendra Chahal, for his success.

With more weapons in his armoury yet to be unleashed to their full potential, Kuldeep seems to have built a solid foundation for more.