First Indian bowler to take two hat-tricks in ODI cricket. 3rd fastest Indian to take 100 ODI wickets. First-ever left-arm wrist spinner to represent India in the international stage. Kuldeep Yadav has been nothing short of a revelation with the ball but the past few months has seen a massive dip in his success rate and the recent figures in the Hamilton ODI adds impetus to that.
Where did it all begin?
The earliest memory of Kuldeep’s form slump takes me back to the IPL game between Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens where Kuldeep was decimated in a partnership between Moeen Ali and Virat Kohli. He was shattered and a lot of images had surfaced over the internet of him breaking down post his horror day on the field. Kuldeep registered figures of 1 for 59 in four overs this being the second-worst figures in IPL history. Kuldeep had a very poor IPL 2019 with the ace spinner taking only 4 wickets in the 9 games he played and all at an average of 71.5. The economy stands at 8.66 and that wouldn’t have been a worry if he was picking wickets but when your ace spinner goes for runs and doesn’t pick wickets there are eyebrows raised at the economy rate. Kuldeep went wicketless in 6 of the 9 games that season which means he had his 4 wickets in 3 games and was finding it hard during that season. That being the last series of competitive cricket before India went into the 2019 World Cup didn’t augur well for India’s plans.
The World Cup 2019
India’s journey in the buildup to the Cricket World Cup revolved mainly around the two wrist spinners. Kul-Cha was brought in after the management cited that the ability to not take wickets in the middle overs as the reason for the loss in the finals of the CT 2017. Kul-Cha was an instant success and started reaping reward very early and Virat Kohli was mighty pleased that he had more wickets in the middle overs. Apart from the onslaught from Heinrich Klassen during India’s tour of South Africa, the Indian spin duo hadn’t found it tough in the international circuit and with the World Cup just months away a poor IPL was the last thing Kuldeep needed. Kuldeep had a very disappointing campaign in the World Cup picking up only 6 wickets in the 7 games he featured and was wicketless on two of those occasions which made captain Kohli look elsewhere.
What’s the worrying sign?
When Virat Kohli brought in the two wrist spinners policy he wouldn’t have worried for the wrist spinners going for runs as you expect the wrist spinners to dish up some boundary balls only at the cost of wickets in the middle overs. It’s a well-known fact that wickets are the most important aspect in stopping the run flow in limited over formats. Kuldeep going for 70 runs in ten over quota is not a worry at all but when he doesn’t have wickets next to his name it’s a different situation altogether. Kuldeep’s inability to pick wickets in the middle overs is slowly starting to raise question marks regarding his form and with Kohli playing one of the wrist spinners these days how long can he keep a consistent Yuzvendra Chahal out of the side. The bigger picture here is the ease at which the international batsman have started reading him and don’t find him as big a threat as he once was. There is a lot of video analysis that squads around the world these days and its important for a modern-day bowler to add skills to his armoury. Kuldeep had averages of 24 and 17 in his first two years in international cricket. His 2019 was a poor one he averaged 34.19 with the ball and strike rate of 34.68 which is around 6 overs for a wicket in ODIs. His 2020 has also now started off on a totally wrong note with only 5 wickets in 4 games at an economy of 6.65 and at a career-high strike rate of 48.00(8 overs per wicket).
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What can be done?
Kuldeep’s biggest asset is the pace in which he bowls that induces false shots. There was an interview which Kuldeep’s mentor Narender Hirwani gave earlier this year where he mentioned what Kuldeep could do to get out of this poor run. He made a very valid point when he said
“Kuldeep’s best bet is to concentrate on the extent of spin and dip. I am not talking like some old-timer – flight it high, but just over the eye-line. And also not every ball. Let him keep varying it but there should be enough of such balls in the spell”.
Kuldeep has gone on to develop the quicker ball over the years but it has to be said that he doesn’t have as many skills in the bag as his counterpart Yuzvendra Chahal possesses. A recent study by CricViz revealed according to ball-tracking measures they have he has the highest wicket probability. This reveals his attacking and nature and the big heart of this Uttar Pradesh sensation. India would want its ace spinner to have a rethink on his plans and come back strong because this is a talent like no other and Virat Kohli wouldn’t want him to fade away.