Kuldeep Yadav hopeful of rolling his arm over against England

Chinaman Kuldeep did not feature in a single Test in Australia. He is likely to get a chance against England in the Test series starting February 5 in Chennai.

Kuldeep Yadav bowls at the nets in Sydney during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.   -  AP

Touring Australia is never easy for spinners with pace-friendly surfaces on offer. For Kuldeep Yadav, it was tougher as he sat out of the entire Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The chinaman bowler witnessed the historic 2-1 series victory from the players’ enclosure

The 26-year-old, a proven match-winner, did not feature in a single Test but his attitude and indomitable spirit earned him praises from captain Ajinkya Rahane and bowling coach Bharat Arun. While he agrees that there is a healthy competition to break into the playing XI, the spinner is waiting for his moment of glory against England in the Test series that starts in Chennai from February 5.

What are the lessons that you have learnt from the Australia tour? It must have been challenging...

I would not call it challenging, but yes, I did not get opportunities. There was a bit of disappointment for sure, but since the team did well, it did not matter much. I was definitely expecting to play, however, that was not possible due to the team combination. Maybe, I did not fit into the combination, but then, the team put up a brilliant show. The way we won the series was outstanding. I believe apna time aayega (my time will come) in the England series, and whenever I get an opportunity, I will try to deliver.

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Despite not featuring in the playing XI, how did you keep yourself motivated?

It was actually quite difficult to stay inside bubble for long so long and then focus on the game. But the captain and the team management had told us that we should not think much about all those factors, and should focus on the game. The objective was simple - we had gone there to play, so the whole focus on performing well and clinch the series.

We, obviously, did not get off to a good start in the series and after that debacle in Adelaide (where India lost the first Test after being bundled out for 36 in the second innings), we had a discussion the next day. Ravi bhai (head coach Ravi Shastri) said that we should now treat it as a three-match series and prepare accordingly. All the players have always put the team first and we did not think about what was happening around. Our only target was to play well and bounce back in the series. The team had a fighting spirit throughout.

Did you expect to be picked in Brisbane after R. Ashwin was ruled out?

You have to prepare yourself in such a way so that whenever an opportunity comes your way, you are ready for the challenge. I was ready till the final Test. Yes, there were injury woes ahead of the final Test and we knew that some of our players won’t be available, but we decided to stick to our plans. We would discuss on how our field set up be, or what would be the strategy, rather than thinking about who’s injured. I had my goals set. When we reached Brisbane, I thought maybe I could get a chance to play, but after a look at the wicket - which appeared to be slightly green - it was decided that we would go for four fast bowlers. That was the correct decision.

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Ashwin had a memorable outing - with the ball and the willow. Did you have any discussions with him?

Ash bhai shared a lot of thoughts with us with regards to the England tour. We spoke about the field placements. We spoke a lot and as a bowling unit, we had a set plan on where to place the deliveries and I am glad that all those plans worked. The way he batted in Sydney, along with Hanuma Vihari, it speaks volumes about the character of the team and its indomitable spirit. That draw in Sydney boosted our morale, and we had fresh bowling attacks for each Test. And we took advantage of that. We have great talent in the side and everyone was waiting for the right moment and they lapped up the opportunity.

You have been a match-winner in the Indian conditions, but time and again, you had to warm the bench on overseas assignments. How do you see this?

It totally depends on the conditions. I am comfortable playing anywhere, but then, it depends on the team combination. When you have two top spinners in Ashwin and (Ravindra) Jadeja, it is not easy to break into the team. But you cannot give up and need to perform regularly - that’s the only way to break into the team. That’s one factor. When you have too many good spinners, it is a challenge to feature in the playing XI, but I take it as a motivation. I know it is important to work hard and whenever there is a chance, you have to give your best. If you treat things this way, then your morale will always be high. During the tour, Ravi sir and Arun sir (Bharat Arun) had regular conversations and that definitely helped me.

What did they tell you?

Ravi sir backed me a lot, so did Virat bhai. I had long chats with Arun sir, who kept on encouraging me and said that “tera time aayega” (your time will come) and that I should perform well. It’s not that they left me out of the plan just because I was not playing and those discussions definitely helped me.

What are your targets for the home series against England?

England played good cricket against Sri Lanka and the team is in good form. They have handled the spinners well in Sri Lanka. But at the same time, there will be a slight difference between the SG balls and the Kookaboora balls, so players will gave to adjust a bit. Whenever England comes for Tests, they are well-prepared.

How are you looking at the competition between you, Ashwin and Axar Patel?

There is no competition as such. I get to learn a lot from Ash bhai. His presence will be of a huge boost, and when the Test series begins, we can make some small tactical changes depending on the situation.

These days, the bowlers are asked to spend more time at the nets to sharpen their batting skills. How do you see that?

You have to bat in Test cricket and for that, you will have to practice hard. I have also spent a lot of time at the nets to improve my batting. Hopefully, you will get to see my batting skills soon.

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