Kuldeep Yadav crumbles when forced into a familiar trap
Some things never change with time. Try running as far as possible, but it will find you in one way or another. It applies to cricket as well.
A player can progress leaps and bounds but will always have a vulnerable spot. Kuldeep Yadav serves as an ideal example. No matter how crafty his skills get, Kuldeep crumbles if attacked early in his spell.
When Kuldeep came in to bowl against New Zealand, his task was distinct from the ones he had in the games before. He had to provide breakthroughs after the opponents had a reasonable start in the first four games. For a change, the opening bowlers applied pressure in favourable conditions to restrict New Zealand to 65/2 in 16 overs before Kuldeep’s introduction.
All Kuldeep required was bowling tight areas without trying too many things and maintaining the grip. Before this rubber, he had bowled 36 overs, picking five wickets at 29.40 runs apiece while conceding 4.08 an over in middle overs. Another tight spell, in a lighter situation, was on in all measures.
Daryl Mitchell and Rachin Ravindra, who were gradually bringing the Kiwis back after a tepid start, couldn’t afford to let Kuldeep do his thing. They had an uphill task, for they had to preserve their wicket and take the attack back on Kuldeep straight away. That was the only way to tackle him.
While Rachin Ravindra and Daryl Mitchell are fantastic players of spin, especially Mitchell, an in-form Kuldeep Yadav is a tough nut to crack. However, the duo launched a well-planned attack on him. They used their feet and hit Kuldeep down the ground.
In Kuldeep’s second over, Ravindra stepped down and hit over his head for a maximum on the first delivery. Along the same lines, Daryl waltzed and thwacked a loopy one over deep midwicket on the fourth delivery of the over. They took 16 from six balls.
Daryl Mitchell continued his assault and showed his tremendous range against the spinners. Even when he couldn’t hit boundaries, Mitchell showed intent by continuously playing those unconventional shots like sweeps and reverse sweeps. He unsettled Kuldeep, and Rohit Sharma had to take him out of the attack after four overs when he leaked 35 runs.
The pressure was palpable on the first ball of his second stint in the 31st over when Kuldeep darted down the leg. His mindset was not to pick wickets anymore; that was a massive psychological win for the two batters. Daryl Mitchell continued the same process and hit one straight into the sightscreen on the fourth ball.
Kuldeep’s mindset can be gauged by the pace of his deliveries when the batters are going after him. He bowls in those 75s-85s km/h speeds in full flow. Put him under the pump, and his pace rises significantly, and the variations go for a toss.
In his next over, Kuldeep bowled one at 113.7 km/h to Mitchell, with most other balls with a flatter trajectory. While he didn’t concede as many runs, it was not his ideal version. Even after his rejuvenation, Kuldeep varies his pace smartly and bowls those loopy ones to dismiss batters.
Not only did Kuldeep forget his right pace, but he also sprayed his lengths on the shorter side and lines down the leg. Daryl Mitchell was also quick to recognise it and adjusted himself accordingly.
However, Kuldeep made a fine comeback in his second set of five overs. But the Kiwi batters showed the path to unsettle Kuldeep - India’s most lethal weapon in middle overs.
When Kuldeep’s variations were exposed after his honeymoon period, the worst thing he did was bowling at an unreasonably high pace. Due to this, he erred in his lines and lengths consistently. And while Kuldeep’s pace has been relatively high, he still makes sure to bowl those tossed-up deliveries.
It’s just that Kuldeep bowls slightly quicker to make the ball skid and hurry the batters. But against New Zealand, there were ample shades of his lowest phase two years back. No wonder Daryl Mitchell belted two fours and three maximums, whereas Rachin Ravindra also hit a six and faced him with ease.
Other teams will take a cue from the Kiwi duo. The upcoming Indian games will mainly be on batting-friendly surfaces with little help for the slow bowlers. The teams like England and South Africa also have some terrific players of spin.
They will definitely put Kuldeep under the pump, and India will be in trouble if he succumbs similarly. Before the game against New Zealand, Kuldeep didn’t have an economy rate of even five in the four World Cup games. In this game, he went for 7.30 and leaked seven boundaries.
The key for Kuldeep Yadav will be not to panic and stick to the plans that have reaped success since his comeback last year. If the batters hit him early, Kuldeep can vary his lines instead of increasing his pace. The wider ones on a slightly shorter length rather than landing them directly in the slot with a flatter trajectory can work.
Trying those sliders, similar to the one he bowled to dismiss Tom Latham, in between those regular ones will also help. It’s just that Kuldeep shouldn’t go overboard in terms of speed, even while being defensive. He often loses control while bowling at high speeds and almost becomes an unrestrained medium pacer.
He has enjoyed his comeback period, but the next few games will be a real test. The skilled batters will smash him and try to throw him out of the attack early in his spell. Kuldeep Yadav will have to bowl better than he did against New Zealand in Dharamsala to avoid carnage.