After being lauded for his performance against Bangladesh in the warmup match, Kuldeep Yadav has his eyes set for the World Cup campaign on June 5. He believes that the secret to keeping the pressure on batsmen is to force him to rotate the strike if he gets hit, and he would look forward to implementing that against South Africa.
Dropped by Kolkata Knight Riders during the Indian Premier League (IPL), Kuldeep picked his confidence up even after failing to get a wicket against New Zealand in the first warmup match. But against Bangladesh, he had finally regained his dip, turn and the wickets. In an interview with ESPNcricinfo in mid-May, Yadav had talked about how he felt after being dropped by Knight Rider’s captain Dinesh Karthik, and how he intended to improve himself to play in his debut World Cup.
“People are saying I was bowling badly, but I actually did not give away many runs other than that over where I went for 25 runs (against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Kolkata). Before that, I think my economy was about 7.3, which is acceptable in T20. And that, too, bowling on the Eden wicket,” he said.
“It’s just that when you are not taking wickets, these things get highlighted. When you are taking wickets regularly, no one talks at all. If your team doesn’t pick you, everyone says the season did not go well. That actually did not make a difference to me,” said Kuldeep, who had immediately gone back to Kanpur to train with his personal coach, Kapil Pandey for ten days to improve on his basics.
Even after the disappointing IPL season, he is not feeling down before the World Cup as his previous record on English soil had been the talk of the town in 2018. His 6 for 25 against England in the first ODI of the series at Trent Bridge, Nottingham was the best by a left-arm spinner in ODIs. Playing his first ODI in England, he offered control, variation, and guile, that had the English batting order on the backfoot much of the afternoon.
On being asked how he felt about going back there for the tournament, Kuldeep said, “Last year, I just played in three ODIs. This time I will have more time to showcase my skills. Of course, it will be a challenge and there will be pressure, considering it’s the World Cup. I have a nervous excitement to play in such a big event for the first time.”
He went on to talk about how he had worked in the two weeks before the World Cup after being humiliated by Virat Kohli of Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) during the IPL season. “If you try something and you get hit, you can’t do anything. He (Kohli) did hit me for a couple of good fours. In T20 cricket, I don’t attack too much because you can get hit on a flat wicket. You need to bowl tight. But in ODIs, when you get hit, the plan is to figure out how to force the batsman to rotate the strike so you can bowl at the second batsman to create pressure,” said Kuldeep.
“I was working on stuff like flight, making the ball dip – those are my strengths. The only way to regain form is to work in the nets, bowling two to three hours. I bowled a lot to get my basics right. The more rotations and revs the ball has, the more drift I can get. That is another thing I worked on during the break after the IPL,” he continued.
Putting in hard work after the dip in form, Kuldeep is now being considered one of the match-winners, as he evidently showed against Bangladesh last week, by his captain Virat Kohli.
“It is a very big thing when your captain believes in you. Virat has always had a belief in [Yuzvendra] Chahal and me. He believes both of us can take wickets at any time in a match, that we can change the game at any time. Even if we have a bad match or if we go for runs, he does not say anything. He trusts us, gives us the freedom to bowl the way we want to. He just says: I want wickets. He tells us that even if we go for five or ten runs extra, it’s not an issue as long as we are getting wickets. When he believes that you are one of his main players, it is a good sign that your captain is supporting you.”
Talking to ESPNcricinfo, he expressed his desire to do more for the team, by even becoming useful by bowling at the death, and not just limiting himself in the middle overs.
“After 40 overs, the field is a bit more open. It’s a bit easier to bowl and the batsmen are taking more chances. I have bowled at the death in the IPL and that is an option,” said Yadav, whose place in the team is all but confirmed for Wednesday.
On being asked about his personal aim for the World Cup, he concluded by saying, “Just to win the World Cup. Of course, we have to take one game at a time, but that is the team goal.”