Kuldeep Yadav remains a leading contender to come in to the lineup for India against Sri Lanka in the third Test that begins at Pallekele from Saturday. The chinaman, however, will face competition from Axar Patel who was brought in as the replacement for Ravindra Jadeja into the squad following his one match suspension due to breach of ICC code of conduct. Even though Axar has been called in, Kuldeep remains the overwhelming favourite to come into the XI as he has been in the island nation since the beginning of the series and is more aware of the conditions.
“Obviously there is excitement. I was excited to play my debut Test as well. So if I get a chance to play in Sri Lanka I will be very happy because this will be a result of my hard work. While I am excited, I am also nervous because I want to perform,” said Kuldeep to Hindustan Times.
“It is still not clear (if I will play) because there are three days left for practice. But ever since I have come here, (Ravi) Shastri sir keeps on motivating me. I have been doing nets and he has been talking to me during the nets from even before the first Test. It is a good experience,” he added.
Should Kuldeep play, it would be his second Test match. He had made his Test debut against Australia earlier in the year and had made an instant impact in Dharamsala. He picked up four wickets in the Test and steered India to a 2-1 series win in the process. Ever since, he’s been made to play the waiting game with R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja holding the leading spinners role.
“Definitely you will have to wait for your chance if the No. 1 and No. 2 spinners in the world are in the same Test squad. You cannot walk into the team so easily and you have to wait as that’s the rule of cricket. I try to stay with them mostly and keep talking to them and they help me a lot. So I have learnt a lot from them especially playing Test cricket with them.”
“I have also been working with Bharat Arun for the past 10 years, ever since I was playing in Under-16 and then in Under-19 cricket too. I share a lot of things with him and he tells me a lot about bowling as well. He has been seeing me ever since I was a junior cricketer and he knows what I should do and what not to do,” Kuldeep said.
He recalled the opening Test where he picked up 4/68 in the opening innings and admitted that he had entered that fixture having spent sleepless night. “For me, the single biggest important thing was playing in the debut Test. There cannot be a bigger moment than that. I was very nervous too, there was a lot of pressure and I couldn’t sleep at night. Obviously when you are close to achieving your dream there is nervousness and playing Test cricket has always been my dream,” said the 22-year-old spinner.
“In my head I wasn’t thinking who I am playing against, whether Australia or New Zealand, I was only thinking about taking as many wickets as possible. I just wanted to show what skill I have. And that is what I did. Anil sir and Ajinkya bhai both told me to just enjoy my bowling and do what I do in nets or what I have been doing since childhood.”
“And in my head, the first ball was very important. I wanted to bowl the first ball very well and that was my thinking. So when the first ball was good, and 1-2 overs went well, I grew in confidence and lost my nervousness,” he added.
Even though he didn’t get a Test match thereafter, he did get a chance to don the India colours in the limited overs format when India toured the Caribbean. “Ahead of the ODI debut I wasn’t as nervous. There was pressure in ODIs as well because the batsmen are attacking you. It took me three overs to settle down on my ODI debut before I figured out how to adjust my lengths as the wickets were very slow in the West Indies.”
“I also talked to Mahi bhai (MS Dhoni) and Virat (Kohli) bhai and it became easier for me to perform in every match. It helps if the captain believes in you as half your work is done. Captain’s belief is very important and Virat bhai supports me a lot.
Sri Lankan players employed the sweep technique effectively in the second Test but Kuldeep said it also opens up doors for the spinners to pick up wickets. “I didn’t plan anything in particular before coming to Sri Lanka. But I did work a little bit on my mindset because you are bowling on overseas wickets. Here wickets are a bit similar to Indian wickets so you do have an idea how to bowl. Only the batsmen are a bit different in terms of their approach so obviously I have planned a little bit,” he said.
“Kusal Mendis and Dimuth Karunaratne batted very well in the last Test. They played sweep very well. It is difficult for spinners if the batsmen are playing the sweep so effectively. But playing sweep also means a lot of chances for bowlers, so if you plan even a little about them it becomes very helpful,” Kuldeep concluded.
(With PTI inputs)