I'm not a mystery bowler, says Kuldeep Yadav

He is not, Kuldeep Yadav vehemently insists, some “mystery bowler” who is no longer effective once the novelty has worn off.

“If one over does not go well, I always believe I have a chance in the next,” says Kuldeep Yadav.   -  Vivek Bendre

Ever since India decided, in the aftermath of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, that wrist spin was the way forward in One-Day Internationals, Kuldeep Yadav has been an integral part of the team’s plans. The left-armer has turned into a key strike-bowler and will play a major role in India’s World Cup campaign later this year. Kuldeep did not have a great time in the home ODI series against Australia in March, when he averaged over 30 — at more than six an over — from the five matches, leading some to wonder if he had been “figured out” by rival batsmen. The 24-year-old though, is quick to dismiss such suggestions. He is not, he vehemently insists, some “mystery bowler” who is no longer effective once the novelty has worn off. In this chat with Sportstar, Kuldeep discusses his style of bowling, reflects on his partnership with Yuzvendra Chahal, and talks about switching formats.

What did you do after the Australia ODI series?

I took a break because I had been bowling a lot. There had been a few niggles as well. I was working on that. I came back after a week. I’m bowling well. It’s not that I have been bowling badly. But if you make small errors or if your line or length is off even slightly, you go for runs. Many times it happens that the ball doesn’t come out of your hand the way you want it to. It can be slightly back and forth, and runs leak. Which is why you need to practise to control those deliveries. Whenever I get the chance, I do that in training.

What do you tell yourself after going for runs?

There’s always a way. Whenever you concede runs, you feel under pressure. But at the same time you always have a chance to take a wicket.

Many times it happens with me that I concede runs. Then I think that if I take one wicket, I can come back into the game. My mindset is always that: “Do not let go till the last ball.” If I gave up easily, I would not be successful as a bowler. If one over does not go well, I always believe I have a chance in the next.

After the Australia series, it was said that you were less effective because their batsmen were familiar with you…

You can’t say that it becomes easy for a batsman once he’s played me a few times because I’m not some mystery bowler. I don’t consider myself a mystery bowler. I have played against all teams, and it’s not that only the opponent should do well or you should do well. It’s all about how you’re bowling that day.

If you’re getting the ball to turn, any batsman will be troubled. If you’re bowling flat and fast, then it becomes very easy to bat. It doesn’t matter if someone is playing me for the first time or the 10th time. Of course, it makes some difference when a batsman hasn’t faced me before. He needs time because batsmen don’t get to face Chinaman bowling often. As they play, they get used to it. But that is when your skill comes into play — how you can deceive the batsman with your turn, your line and length.

You’re an old-fashioned bowler who tosses the ball up. Then there’s someone like Rashid Khan, who bowls flat and fast into the pitch. Are you not tempted to bowl that way? I’ve tried (bowling flat and fast). It’s not that I haven’t tried it. But it’s not my strength. Each bowler has its own strengths. Rashid has unique strengths, Chahal has unique strengths; we are all different. I believe in my skills. Yes, sometimes I feel — on a batting wicket with short boundaries — that I should try it. But then I end up conceding more runs because that’s not my strength. Of course I’m trying to improve, trying to add a few deliveries to my skill. Yes, sometimes you concede runs bowling in your natural style. Then you feel, “Let me send this down fast, and just concede a single.” I get this thought in my head. But you have to stick to what works for you.

You played an ODI series before the IPL. At the end of the IPL, you have the World Cup to focus on. How easy or hard is it to switch formats?

It’s not hard to switch between T20 (Twenty20) and ODI cricket because it’s white-ball cricket. Just some field positions are different, but everything else is the same. When you’re playing Test cricket, then it takes time to adjust. It takes me 10-11 days to get into Test mode. In Test matches, there is a lot of difference. You need to focus on accuracy; patience is very important. The batsmen attack you in limited-overs cricket. Here, you need to go after them. Plus it’s not a 50-over game, so the ball becomes soft and you need to learn to bowl with the softer ball. You need to get into the mind of the batsman. All these things matter.

"Chahal and I have known each other for eight or nine years now. He supports me a lot; he’s like an elder brother to me,” says Kuldeep.   -  AP

 

How has it been bowling with Chahal?

Chahal and I have known each other for eight or nine years now. He supports me a lot; he’s like an elder brother to me. We back each other. On the ground, we plan a batsman’s dismissal together. We think, “We need a wicket between this over and this over.” It’s important to understand each other. Our strengths are the same. When we’re bowling from opposite ends, I can feel when the pressure is building and he can feel it too. We know how to use that situation in our favour. It helps us take wickets.

Social media has named you two ‘Kulcha’…

It’s a nice thing (laughs). I hope we can keep performing like this for the team. The team comes first and not individuals.