The Under-19 World Cups always have a history of producing the future talents of world cricket. The teenagers in the tournament are under the scrutiny as the cricketing fraternity sets its eyes to witness the next generation of the game. For India, it has been a highly fruitful format as it has given the country, the players like Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli.
The 2014 edition of the tournament was no different. Amongst the most exciting players to emerge from the event was the chinaman bowler – Kuldeep Yadav. With the rarest of the rare style of bowling, he caught the eyes of everyone. He picked up 14 wickets and was the joint second highest wicket-taker in the tournament that also included a hat-trick against Scotland.
Kuldeep was the biggest gain for India amongst all the players and it was just the beginning as he kept growing in stature. He then went on to represent Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League. With the consistent run in domestic cricket, he earned a call-up in the Indian squad for the Test series against Australia earlier this year.
An impressive Test debut
The Border-Gavaskar Trophy of 2016 started with Australia foxing India in the first Test in Pune. The hosts managed to edge past the visitors in the second Test in Bangalore whereas the third one in Ranchi ended in a draw. The decider was to be played in Dharamsala and India had to win that one to regain the trophy.
Kuldeep, who was warming the benches thus far, was slotted in the playing XI for the final Test. Australia batted first and were in a commanding position at 144/1. That’s when the young spinner struck and removed David Warner, Peter Handscomb and Glenn Maxwell in quick succession. He ended up with figures of 68/4 that restricted the Aussies to a mediocre 300 on a batting-friendly surface.
Although he didn’t pick any wickets in the 5 overs that he bowled in the second innings but the sucker punch was delivered by the 22-year-old in the first innings itself. India went on to win the match as well as the series. That was the big break Kuldeep needed and he pounced on the very first opportunity he got at the big stage.
Useful commodity in ODIs
Kuldeep wasn’t picked in the Indian squad for the Champions Trophy but found a place soon on the tour to Windies. In the very first ODI, he was picked in the playing XI ahead of Ravindra Jadeja. The rain gods denied him to bowl as the match was abandoned. But in the second match, he proved his worth.
The left-hander bagged figures of 50/3 in 9 overs. The Windies batsmen attempted to go after him and were deceived by his variations. In the next match as well, he picked up 41/3 and played a pivotal role in handing India its second victory on the trot. It was a big call to play him ahead of Jadeja and Kuldeep left no stones unturned in proving it right.
Deceptive bowling style
The thing that works in his favor is his style of bowling. Batsmen all over the world don’t get to face chinaman bowling around the world. There have hardly been any who bowled like this. The only former cricketer that comes to mind is Brad Hogg but he too played in the era of Shane Warne where every other spinner was left waiting in the wings.
It’s a difficult art to master and Kuldeep has a very high proficiency in that. He flights the ball and lands the ball on good lengths more often than not that induces the batsmen to lean forward. With a barrage of chinamen, he quietly slips in the wrong un that is his major weapon for picking up wickets.
In a very short span of his career, he has shown the ability to set up the batsmen. That’s what he did against Australia and that’s what he is doing against Windies as well. The skipper Virat Kohli has been mightily impressed by the 22-year-old and has been quite vocal in pouring heaps of praises for him.
Fit for all formats
He has already proved his worth in Test cricket against Australia. He has got the ability to bowl long spells and can deliver the balls consistently at one spot. Although Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja hold the fort firmly in the longest format of the game, Kuldeep would certainly be in the squad and can be used as the third spinner whenever there is assistance for the spinners.
In the recent ODIs against Windies, he has shown the other side of his bowling style. Although he can be costly at times but possesses the skill to pick up wickets, which holds its weight worth in gold. Picking wickets work perfectly in the shortest format of the game as well which proves that he is the bowler for all season.
Additionally, there has been a marked increase in the demand of the wrist spinners in limited overs cricket. Kuldeep has ticked all the boxes so far required for the modern cricket. He has so many years of cricket in front of him. If he continues to do well, he could well end up in the league of the legendary spinners of the country.