Kuldeep braces up for ‘tough’ competition with Rashid

The chinaman bowler hopes to perform well in the one-off Test against Afghanistan in Bengaluru.

Kuldeep Yadav is set to play the third Test of his career in Bengaluru against Afghanistan.   -  V. V. Krishnan

The one-off Test between India and Afghanistan in Bengaluru will be a clash between two young spinners — Rashid Khan and Kuldeep Yadav.

Both tweakers have dominated the international circuit in the recent past. While Kuldeep — India’s chinaman bowler — has become one of the key spinners for his side, Rashid has gone on to become the top-ranked bowler in the shortest format of the game for Afghanistan.

Though Kuldeep enjoys all the attention, he admits that the competition will be intense when the two sides meet in Bengaluru. “Rashid is the best spinner in T20s and has played well for all the teams [in the franchise-based leagues]. It is good to see such comparisons, because he has also done really well in the shorter format. So, the competition will be tough,” Kuldeep tells Sportstar.

‘Intense competition’

The 23-year-old, however, was quick to add that his target would be to deliver for his team. “Hopefully, I will be able to perform for India and he, too, will give his best for Afghanistan,” the Kanpur-based spinner says.

Kuldeep expects Afghanistan to play well due to its good quality of spin bowlers. “This is a first Test for Afghanistan and I am confident that it will be a good game. They have good spinners, so it will be an even contest. I am looking forward to some intense competition,” he says.

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As Kuldeep speaks, he exudes confidence. He comes into the tournament after a successful Indian Premier League (IPL) stint, where he clinched 17 wickets for Kolkata Knight Riders. Despite a jittery start, Kuldeep bounced back towards the latter half of the tournament and he admitted this season had been a learning experience for him.

‘Toughest league’

“IPL is the toughest league. If you see, every game was important, so it was necessary to better the performance and better it with every game. In situations where you need to win three of three games, it is a must to keep calm. Pressure also mounts up. This IPL taught me a lot,” Kuldeep says.

“Initially, it was not quite good, but gradually things fell in place and I could get back the rhythm. In a format like T20, you get very little time to bounce back, so it was a good season. Starting was not quite good but then I picked up the rhythm well,” he explains.

Master and protege

Interestingly, Kuldeep found his mojo back in the league game against Rajasthan Royals — a side which was mentored by the Australian spin legend, Shane Warne. After that match at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, Kuldeep made it a point to catch up with Warne, and the Aussie spin great had even posted a picture of the two in his social media handles. “I met him (Warne) for some five-ten minutes. He was telling me that I have improved my bowling,” Kuldeep says.

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He is looking forward to meeting Warne during India’s tour to England. “Warne told me that when we will tour England, he will also be there (for commentary stint), and then we would talk at length about my bowling. We will get to spend more time there and then we can talk more on how to better the performance,” the chinaman says.

‘Nothing new’

While the immediate focus is on the Test against Afghanistan, India will have a tough summer when it travels to Ireland and England later this month. Kuldeep, however, is not too keen on bringing about any changes to his bowling for the long tour. “There will be nothing new. I will play to my strength,” he says, making it clear that to sustain in the longer run, a spinner has to rely on his basics.

“If you wish to play for long, it is important [to stick to your basics]. If the basic is alright, you can perform in all conditions — be it England or Australia. Every tour will be a new experience and I will take things as they come,” he says bluntly.

Over the last couple of years, Kuldeep has been able to cement his place in the Indian side and as the team gears up for the toughest season, he, too, hopes to brace up well.