Kuldeep Yadav picked up his fifth four-wicket haul in One-Day Internationals as India beat South Africa by seven wickets at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Tuesday. The left-arm spinner catalysed the disintegration of South Africa's batting, cleaning up the tail to prevent the team from reaching three figures. He narrowly missed a hat-trick, too, in one of the more memorable games of his ODI career.
Kuldeep may have picked up only a wicket each in the first two matches of the series, but he says he has bowled as well as he has wanted to in all the matches of the series, and that there is good rhythm in his bowling.
“My confidence improved after the IPL,” he told media persons assembled here.
“I went to the West Indies and bowled well there. I bowled well in Zimbabwe, too, and for India A recently. I've always had confidence. Wickets or the lack of them don't reflect the confidence I have. Throughout the series, I was bowling as well as I wanted to bowl. My confidence has gone up.”
Much of his confidence and rhythm has to do with regular match practice. Kuldeep played limited-overs internationals in the Caribbean, in West Indies, and recently for India A. “Playing matches is very important for everyone. If you keep playing, you become more confident. And you learn a lot too. Luckily I'm getting to play matches and I'm enjoying playing. You want to learn and improve during net sessions, but you realise your mistakes more quickly when you're playing matches,” he said.
But Kuldeep also pointed out that it is also the result of having worked hard on his rhythm. “That's the reason I could increase the pace of my deliveries. I'm not compromising on the spin. I'm getting good turn and batsmen are not getting so much time to play the deliveries, so I'm working on that,” he said.
There's an aesthetic delight in Kuldeep's bowling. His bowling action is a classical action suiting a leg-spinner. But there's also beauty in some of his dismissals. On Tuesday, it was fun to watch Andile Phehlukwayo and Anrich Nortje lose their wicket to a googly from Kuldeep. Nortje's dismissal was similar to Markram's dismissal in Lucknow: they came forward to defend the delivery, and the ball snuck in through the gap between the bat and the pad.
“If your bowling skills are good and your rhythm is good, the pitch also seems to assist you, even if there's just a little bit of turn on offer. They combine to give you those 'magic deliveries,'” Kuldeep quipped.
Kuldeep took two wickets in two deliveries – of Bjorn Fortuin and Nortje – but couldn't quite take the hat-trick, dismissing Marco Jansen only in his next over. “I was confident of taking a hat-trick today. But there was perhaps a break in rhythm. Hat-tricks don't come easily; one has to work very hard to achieve them,” he said.
'Good lessons in defeat'
South Africa coach Mark Boucher said some “soft dismissals upfront” and India's good bowling contributed to the defeat. He indicated fatigue may have played a role as well in the series defeat.
“I think we've taken some good lessons. And we've had some good chats behind closed doors to speak about things that we can get a lot better at. And I think that'll stand us in good stead going forward through to Australia, where conditions are completely different. Certainly, it's disappointing to lose, but we have got a massive competition around the corner. And that's what we really are gearing ourselves up to,” Boucher said, summing up the series for his team.
The “good intent, good aggression,” shown by the team during the first two matches was absent on Tuesday, admitted Boucher. The team's No. 1 spinner – Keshav Maharaj – didn't play as he wasn't feeling well but the game was lost in the first half and not because of the bowling, felt Boucher.
How disappointing was it to lose the last bilateral series as South Africa coach (Boucher will step down after the T20 World Cup)? “As disappointed as I was when we lost the first one.”