Jayant Yadav: 'I'm a bowler who can bat'

Jayant Yadav, aptly punned as 'a gentle Jayant', speaks about his first tryst with the National team, Virat Kohli's captaincy, bowling with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja among other things.

jayant yadav

As Jayant Yadav struck some vital blows in India's emphatic series victory over England, his approach was marked by a happy, unhurried serenity.   -  K. Bhagya Prakash

Jayant Yadav breaks into a broad grin when he is informed that during his efforts in the Mumbai Test, a rather apt pun on his name emerged: 'a gentle Jayant', someone called him. "It's not the first time," he smiles. "My friends also call me that sometimes." It is not hard to see why. This last month, as the tall off-spinner struck some vital blows in India's emphatic series victory over England, his approach was marked by a happy, unhurried serenity.

"I've always been like that, on and off the field," he tells Sportstar at the National Cricket Academy here on Monday.

It helped, Jayant says, that he was made to feel welcome in the dressing room.

"They let me be. You have your own space. You can be yourself and not be too nervous or conscious. The atmosphere is congenial and conducive to doing well. If you're worried or stressed in the dressing room, you cannot do well on the field."

Jayant may have been picked for his off-breaks but his 221 runs in three Tests, including a crucial century in Mumbai (the first by an Indian no. 9), put him in all-rounder territory.

"I will always say that my primary skill is with the ball," he states. "I'm a bowler who can bat; that's how I've played throughout my career and I'd like to continue with that."

For someone who had made his international debut only a fortnight before (in the fifth ODI against New Zealand), Jayant demonstrated great composure against England. As the team's third spinner, he ensured England had no breathing room; no respite from the pressure Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja had brought to bear. Virat Kohli hailed the 26-year-old's knowledge of his own game, and his control with the ball.

"That comes from playing in a place like Lahli," says Jayant. "More than half of my Ranji Trophy matches (for Haryana) have come at that venue (where seam bowlers flourish). You have to be precise there. You have to contain one end with the medium-pacers bowling from the other. You have to know your game well."

Kohli, for his part, gave Jayant freedom with the ball. "Virat never says you have to do this or that. He always asks me: 'What's your plan?' Even if I bowl a bad ball, he says, 'No worries'. It really empowers a player when your captain is backing you, whether you have had a good day or bad. He is always the same on the field, whether you take a wicket in a spell or not."

Also of support and encouragement was Ashwin, someone Jayant has known for some time now. Both players, it would seem, take a keen interest in cricket's finer, technical details. "We have similar wavelengths in terms of cricket and a lot of things," Jayant says. "We just click."

How would he analyze his own bowling then? "I'd like to get my run-up and loading better," Jayant says. "There's a lot of areas (for improvement). But I wouldn't change a thing about the way I bowled this series. Because unless you try certain things... If I don't try surfing, I'll never know what not to do so that I don't fall the second time."