The Indian bowling department deserves a pat on the back for tightening its screws and producing machines over the last few years. Bhuvneshwar Kumar underwent renovation to add pace to swing, Jasprit Bumrah became the yorker guy, Mohammed Shami never lost his focus in South Africa despite domestic turmoil and Ishant Sharma — who made his debut in 2007 — is still fit and suitable for overseas Test tours.
The versatility of the bowlers narrowed the gaps — between the better and the best — and there was no room for inconsistency. Umesh Yadav realised it at the right time.
The Vidarbha pacer sharpened his swing, worked on his fitness and today — flaunting a sassy ponytail — he is set to breathe fire in England.
In Bhuvneshwar’s absence, Yadav had the perfect setting to spread his wings in the practice match against Essex in Chelmsford. He returned with a four-for in the blistering heat and strengthened his case.
Favourite, yet not!
It was time he did something special as he has been earning praises from stalwarts for a little more than a year — for his pace and the ability to recover from injuries.
The tormenting spell (3/29) against Australia in Dharamsala had a mirror-cracking effect.
Yadav’s trickery was noticed by former Australia quick Glenn McGrath. He was impressed how the Indian speedster had a good control over his body.
“Being fit is not how long you can bowl for, it is about how quickly you recover. I think that’s helped Umesh. He is bowling with a lot of confidence now and a pacer needs an off-season. Umesh knows how to recover,” was McGrath’s analysis of Yadav.
It is not easy to switch the work mode on immediately after a seven-month gap in Test cricket but Yadav staged quite a comeback in the form of his 100th Test wicket against Afghanistan.
Upon landing in the UK, he claimed 14 wickets in seven games, including a Twenty20 game against Ireland.
Ahead of the UK tour, Yadav had a session with bowling coach Subroto Banerjee in Nagpur. The former India bowler has been training the 30-year-old since his junior cricket days. He exactly knew the magic words, ‘reverse swing’, to fire up the speedster.
“I wanted to see how the ball was shaping. I worked on his length. He looked pretty good before he left. The reverse swing might come in quicker which isn’t normal in England. But you might see that happening as the wickets are flat and dry. Reverse swing will be his advantage,” Banerjee told Sportstar on Saturday.
Banerjee feels Yadav has developed over time. “He is a very good student who is always ready to listen. He is getting better and better. Once you play international cricket for that long, you learn many things on your own. Umesh is the one who is going and bowling there and not me.
"He has really fine-tuned himself and eliminated the negatives. Earlier, he used to leak runs and in the game against Essex, he conceded only 35 runs in 18 overs (and picked four wickets). He is going the right path and I feel he will stand out in the series,” he added.
Legendary West Indies quick Sir Andy Roberts, also a fan of Yadav, believes a team needs good fast bowlers who can also swing the ball. “Or else, you are going to struggle abroad.”
Yadav seems to have figured out a way to deliver the goods in England.