UMESH YADAV doesn’t bowl special deliveries. Or so is the general perception. Umesh Yadav doesn’t swing or seam the ball too much. Not like Bhuvaneshwar Kumar or Mohammed Shami anyway. Or so is the perception. Umesh Yadav is quick but not consistently express like Jasprit Bumrah. Or so is the perception. On Sunday in Hyderabad, Umesh Yadav became only the third Indian pacer in history to take a 10-wicket Test match haul on home soil. That is fact.
There’s a lot of old school in the way Yadav goes about his fast bowling business. He’s strong, he’s fit and he runs in over after over with little fuss and bowls every delivery with the same intensity as the last. When he does get rewarded, he celebrates his wickets with little fuss too — an almost obligatory punch in the air at most. That too perhaps adds to the lack of a significant aura, almost like from the outside you take his skills for granted.
And there are plenty of skills that he does possess. He’s got a great seam position, is perhaps the best exponent of reverse-swing in the country, is skiddy enough to have rushed a number of batsmen and is the kind of workhorse that most captains dream of. There’s also the great aesthetic value in the fluent run-up, the athleticism in the delivery stride and the smooth delivery action, at times more eye-catching than what he produces at the other end, even if it’s only a perception, even if he’s effective regardless.
Yadav’s burst at Uppal that blew the West Indies away and sent them plummeting to yet another disparaging defeat — blown away for 127 and losing by 10 wickets — summed all of it up. He hit the stumps on two occasions, off successive deliveries too. Roston Chase was first. The ball hit the inside-edge before deflecting on to his pads and then the stumps. It was the slight movement into the right-hander that he’d generated that led to the dismissal. Chase’s defences would have been penetrated anyway — like they were in similar fashion without any obstacles in the first innings after he’d scored a ton. It’s just that the bat and pads came in the way. Dowrich was the exact same, only that he attempted to play a feeble drive. He would then knock two stumps out to end the innings as Shannon Gabriel played a wild swipe. His first wicket of the innings was that of Kraigg Brathwaite, caught down the leg-side. None of the four wicket deliveries were spectacular. But they did enough to do the damage. They were exactly what India needed.
It was a similar scenario in the first innings, too. For starters, Yadav was left with no support in the pace department with Shardul Thakur limping off after 10 deliveries on Test debut. But Yadav kept steaming in on a pitch with little or help, with a ball with little or no help. In a bowling attack brimming with spinning prowess, it was he who provided Virat Kohli the necessary breakthroughs, time and again. He trapped Shai Hope in front on the cusp of a promising knock, and then took out both Dowrich and Jason Holder when they threatened to take the game away in Chase’s company. He kept running in with the same intensity on the second morning, and knocked out whatever was left of the West Indies to finish with his best-ever innings figures. Only Kapil Dev and Javagal Srinath had done what he did in Hyderabad, take 10 wickets in a Test at home — the bowling equivalent of a triple-century in trying conditions, even if you discount the opponents. Unlike Yadav, they too possessed skills — swing and raw pace respectively — that stood out as predominant attributes.
Perhaps with Yadav, it’s a case of how we’ve become so used to the unusual — be it mystery spin or mystery actions — that the usual seems ordinary. Like you notice it, but it simply doesn’t quite register the way a pacy Jasprit Bumrah in-ducker or a Kuldeep Yadav googly.
According to Kohli though, it does get noticed when they face Yadav in the nets. “He can bowl you unplayable deliveries every now and then, which we experience in the nets all the time. He will just bowl a ball which you feel you couldn’t have done anything else except getting out,” the captain would reveal at the end of the day.
But it’s interesting that despite that being the case, the Vidarbha pacer doesn’t always get a go when India end up playing in conditions, which actually assist his kind of bowling. Yadav has after all featured in only one Test — in Birmingham this year — outside the subcontinent and the Caribbean in nearly 4 years since the last Australia tour. He has, however, been India’s go-to guy in the subcontinent, and like in the Delhi Test against South Africa in 2015, he has produced match-turning, if not match-winning, spells.
There was a time he was erratic, at times wayward, but ironically that was the time he got most of his opportunities away from home. He’s come of age in recent years, both with his control and his ability to set up batsmen. But he’s now dropped down the pecking order with the likes of Shami, Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Kumar ahead of him. Kohli did rave about his fast bowler’s efforts on a lifeless pitch in Hyderabad, and reiterated how India were enjoying the headache of picking from four fast bowlers bowling at “140 clicks” and taking wickets.
Yadav, incidentally, was the first in this present battery to actually cross the 140 kph barrier or the first to show that it can be done consistently anyway—his 40 Tests have spanned nearly 7 years now and he’ll be on his third trip Down Under later this year.
He’d originally made a name for himself with his pace, whether it was bouncing out Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman in the same innings of a Duleep Trophy match in early 2009, or hitting Sachin Tendulkar on the helmet during a preparatory camp in Cape Town a year later. It was he who set the ball rolling, or speeding, for Indian cricket’s first-ever tryst with genuine pace. And despite the monumental effort here, it’s difficult to say with certainty that he’ll play in India’s next Test, at Adelaide, in December. Or you hope that’s just the perception.