Last summer in England, in the space of two balls, Kuldeep Yadav embarrassed two of England’s most competitive batsmen of this generation with his googly — one that breaks away from the right-hander. Both Johnny Bairstow and Joe Root couldn’t pick the googly, gauge the flight, assess the dip, and were drawn out of the crease to be stumped by MS Dhoni.
Bairstow, his first victim, was beaten by the flight, while Root, probably the best English player of spin, was fooled by a combination of flight (the ball hung in the air for an eternity), dip and turn.
Root and Bairstow, the pillars of England batting, weren’t the only pair of pedigreed batsmen left red-faced by Kuldeep Yadav. A raft of Australian batsmen, from Glenn Maxwell to David Warner, too would vouch for the slow deception of his googly. What makes his googlies difficult to comprehend is his seam position.
Batsmen assess whether it’s a chinaman or a wrong’un by watching the seam. The popular batting wisdom is that left-arm wrist spinners bowl seam up for their stock deliveries, the one that’s turning in, while resorting to a scrambled seam for the googly. It’s mostly because the googly is usually released from the back of the hand. So a cross-seam gives you better control. But Kuldeep does both with a scrambled seam.
It doesn’t stop there either. Usually, the chinaman will come from the side of the hand and the wrong’un from the back of the hand, with the wrists almost 180 degrees to the ground.
Again, it’s for a better grip — the top joints of the index and middle fingers is across the seam, with the ball resting between a bent third finger and the thumb.
But Kuldeep can propel both from side of the hand (as well as the conventional back-of-the-hand googly), leaving the batsman with only two options, which is to either wait for the ball to turn, a dangerous proposition with the amount of turn he can generate, or smother it on the half-volley. The latter ploy is equally dangerous with his mastery of flight and dip.
Moreover, unlike most wrist-spinners, Kuldeep doesn’ have an exaggerated flourish of his wrists. Bowlers usually turn their wrists around further when they bowl the googlies to get that whip, but not with Kuldeep, whose wrist movements have subtle differences with his googlies and chinaman. The reason is when he bowls the googlies, he bowls with just one finger on top of the ball. That’s probably his only giveaway.