The conclusion of Kolkata Knight Riders’ run in the Indian Premier League also brought to an end another lukewarm season for India wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav. Five matches, one wicket, an average of 92 and an economy rate of 7.66: these were his figures.
He started off poorly, giving away 39 runs against Mumbai Indians in four wicketless overs. He was much more economical in his next three matches, but failed to make any great impact. He has now played just 14 IPL matches in two seasons, less than he played in 2018 alone.
Kuldeep is known to flight the ball and he wasn’t afraid to do it this season, too. He pitched the ball on a good length or full, and used the odd googly, the flipper, and the slider, and mixed the pace of his deliveries for variety. According to his personal coach, Kapil Pandey, there isn’t much wrong in his bowling; he is just going through a “bad patch” and needs a longer run to get it right.
‘Nothing wrong with his bowling’
“Batsmen are playing Kuldeep less riskily nowadays,” Kapil told Sportstar .
“In the contest against Sunrisers Hyderabad, David Warner was nearly stumped out, but Dinesh Karthik couldn’t collect the ball; a catch was spilled as well in his spell (0 for 18). People could misconstrue this as an example of his ineffectiveness. They may argue he isn’t bowling very well.
“As far as I can see, nothing is wrong with his bowling. It’s just his bad luck that he isn’t getting the wickets that he is supposed to get. He’s going through a bad patch. For a batsman, a bad patch may mean he may be batting well but getting out for low scores; batsmen like Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik struggle for runs but are given the cushion of a few matches to get back among the runs. But it’s not the same for Kuldeep,” Kapil observed.
During the months of lockdown following the spread of coronavirus, Kuldeep worked on some core areas of his bowling alongside coach Kapil in his home town, Kanpur.
“During lockdown he practised a lot here in Kanpur, we played ‘Test’ matches as well, against other clubs. He bowled pretty well and took wickets. We worked on ‘spot bowling’ (bowling at a spot on a good length outside the off-stump continuously), and his ‘big break’(sharply turning delivery), to replicate the kind of delivery that got Babar Azam out during last year’s World Cup,” Kapil revealed.
Kuldeep had a tepid World Cup last year but the delivery that got rid of Babar Azam in the contest between India and Pakistan was a wrist spinner’s delight. Imparting flight on the ball, he got it to pitch on a good length, just outside the off-stump; it turned in sharply to go through the batsman and get him bowled. Babar had been shaping up to play the drive but was completely foxed by that one.
‘Have to be persistent’
Kuldeep continues to be a part of the 50-over India setup and was picked in the Test squad for the Australia tour, but was axed from the T20I squad. His IPL struggles may have led to doubts about the effectiveness of his bowling against the best teams in the format, but Kuldeep hasn’t been known as unsuited for T20s. In T20Is, he has excellent stats: 21 matches, average of 13.76 and an economy rate of 7.11. He has a four-wicket haul and a five-wicket haul under his belt, too.
His best performances were in 2018, when he took 21 wickets in nine matches at an average of 9.80, an economy rate of 5.97 and a strike-rate of 9.8. His performances slipped in 2019 and 2020; he went for runs and couldn’t conjure wicket-taking spells that thrust him to the limelight.
Kapil hopes Kuldeep turns the tide soon. “I have often told Kuldeep, ‘you must focus on your game’. Learn from Rohit Sharma, who doesn’t get too many chances but proves his mettle when he gets them. If you want to be a great player, you have to be persistent.”