When the ball is turning, Kuldeep Yadav knows he always has a chance. On Saturday, still looking for his first wicket this IPL season, he had given up 33 runs from two overs against Delhi Capitals, when Dinesh Karthik tossed him the ball in the 18th. Kuldeep took one wicket for three runs to give KKR a foot in the door. He returned in the 20th, when Delhi needed six to win, and still took the game into a Super Over.
“There’s always a way,” he tells Sportstar . “Many times it happens with me that I concede runs. Sometimes the ball doesn't come out of your hand the way you want it to. Runs leak. Which is why I practise so much, to get that control. I know that with one wicket, I’m back in the game.”
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Kuldeep endured a difficult ODI series against Australia last month, when he averaged more than 30 over the five matches, at an economy rate in excess of six. But he is unhappy with any suggestion that batsmen find him easier to handle over time. There is no novelty to wear off, he argues.
“I’m not some mystery bowler,” says Kuldeep. “I don't consider myself a mystery bowler. If you're getting the ball to turn, any batsman will be troubled. If you're bowling flat and fast, then it becomes easy to bat. It shouldn’t matter if someone is playing me for the first time or the tenth time.
"Of course, facing me for the first time is harder because batsmen don’t face chinaman bowling every day. As they play, they get used to it. But that is when your skill comes into play — how you deceive the batsman with your turn, and your change of line and length.”
On Friday, Kuldeep will go up against RCB’s Yuzvendra Chahal. The two have formed an effective wrist-spinning partnership for India over the last year and a half, and will be relied upon heavily at the World Cup. Social media has dubbed the pair ‘Kulcha’ — a contraction of their two names.
“It’s a nice thing,” Kuldeep chuckles. “Chahal and I have known each other for eight or nine years now. He's like an elder brother to me. We support each other. On the ground, we plan a batsman's dismissal together. When we're bowling from opposite ends, we can feel the pressure build. It helps us take wickets.”
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Kuldeep signed for KKR in 2014 and has stayed there since. He has matured a great deal since he first joined the side as a teenager.
“People like Gauti bhai (former captain Gautam Gambhir) and Wasim Akram (former bowling coach) have helped me a great deal,” he says. “Wasim Akram liked me a lot; he always told me my future was bright. As a kid, I had started out as a fast bowler because he was my inspiration.”
Akram was glad, though, that Kuldeep had made the decision to switch to spin. “He once told me, 'It's good you didn't become a fast bowler,’” Kuldeep recalls. “‘Or you wouldn’t be sitting here.’”
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