Kuldeep Yadav’s emergence in ODI cricket has been one of the biggest plus points for Indian cricket. Since his debut versus West Indies at Queen’s Park Oval in 2017, the ‘chinaman’ has been consistently lethal in matches across formats. Enjoying phenomenal success in international cricket, Kuldeep picked up 45 wickets in 19 ODI matches at a staggering average of 17.78 and an equally impressive strike rate of 22.98, a majority of them on his maiden foreign tours.
Be it the bouncy pitches in South Africa or the challenging conditions Down Under, Kuldeep has become an indispensable part of India’s limited overs setup. Now back in the comforts of his home in Kanpur, the 24-year-old spoke exclusively to The Indian Express and shared his thoughts on the game, chemistry with MS Dhoni, and partnership with Yuzvendra Chahal… Excerpts:
2018 was a wonderful season for you and you have continued the good run in 2019. How satisfied are you with your form over the last year?
I am happy with how the entire year panned out. It began on a good note in South Africa and ended well in Australia. I enjoyed the challenges that came my way and I hope I continue delivering whenever my team requires.
You and Yuzvendra Chahal have formed a potent strike force and picked over 100 wickets between yourselves. Tell us about how you both have matured in a partnership?
Yes, my partnership with Chahal has been quite successful. Other teams play normal cricket in the middle overs trying to keep wickets in hand for the death overs but our mindset is to pick wickets in middle overs. As leg-spinners, it is not easy for us because if we don’t take wickets then we can go for runs. But we back each other and that is our strength. For any partnership to thrive, two players need to work in tandem and I am happy it is benefitting the Indian team.
Another similar partnership that you have forged is with wicketkeeper MS Dhoni who is always guiding from behind the stumps. Your take?Mahi bhai has vast experience and keeps telling us the nitty-gritty of the game. He is like a game changer and we are lucky to have him in our team. But what I find most extraordinary about him is the speed in which he dislodges the stumps. It is simply unbelievable and honestly, I have never played with someone with such quick glovework.
After picking up two wickets in the final T20I against New Zealand, you moved up to a career-best second spot in the latest ICC T20I rankings. How do you look at rankings?
It’s good to be among the top three in world cricket. When you are at number two in world cricket you know that you are on the right track and it provides greater motivation and helps to strive harder. Till now number 2 is good. Rashid Khan has done well and deserves the numero uno spot. It won’t be easy to dislodge him. But if I keep performing then number one will also come soon.
How challenging was it to bowl in New Zealand, considering that wind makes it difficult for bowlers and grounds are small?
In all the matches that I played, the breeze played a huge part. Its difficult to deliver against the wind as the ball sometimes goes a bit fast or a bit slow- so control is paramount. But I tried using it to good effect and bring the drift into play and thereby deceive batsman. Using angles is another aspect I focused on. However, if the wind is blowing from the opposite direction then again, you have to adjust.
But I was never worried about the smaller grounds as I am always looking to toss the ball up. There is a saying “Kitna bhi paata wicket kyu na ho jitna aap hawa mein daloge batsman utna fasega (No matter how flat the wicket is, the more you toss the ball up, the more the batsman will get trapped).” If you bowl quicker on a flat pitch then it becomes easier for the batsman to hit. So I always remember these things and kept giving the loop. Containing the batsman is not my moto. If the batsman hits a six it makes me happy because it always gives me a chance to pick up a wicket. Turning the ball and deceiving the batsman in the air is my strength and I stick to that.
Looking back at the Lord’s Test and the lessons learned thereafter…
Everybody learns from their mistakes and it is the same for me. Maybe conditions were difficult for me and I did not bowl well but it helped me to come back stronger. In the Sydney Test, I played with a mindset like it was my debut. I felt the same pressure and was equally nervous as on my debut. I wanted to contain the batsman and not go for to variations at the start. Pitching the ball at the same place repeatedly and then plan accordingly and thankfully things fell in place accordingly.
2019 is also the World Cup year. Are you looking to prepare differently?
World Cup pressure will be there and that should be there for all players. It helps to perform. Conditions won’t really matter in ODI. I am not thinking too much on it now. There is still time and neither do I believe in bringing something new. If you are talking about mystery then that is something that I do not believe in.
After all your success at the international level, what will winning the 2019 World Cup mean to you?
To be very honest I am still living a dream. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I will be a part of the World Cup squad. If India wins the World Cup then it will be the biggest moment in my career. I do not know how I will celebrate. The entire country wants it and if I can win it for the country then I will know that I have made a meaningful contribution to my country. This is my dream.