Colombo: Kuldeep Yadav was facing an uncertain future by the end of 2021. He had gone down in India’s pecking order and Kolkata Knight Riders benched him for the whole of that IPL season.
But within the last year or so Kuldeep has managed to change his status to become one of the automatic picks in India’s World Cup-bound 15 which was announced on Tuesday.
Kuldeep has also nosed ahead of leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and off-spinners R Ashwin and Washington Sundar in the India scheme of things.
His claim has the backing of numbers as well.
So far this year, the left-arm wrist spinner has taken 23 wickets from 13 ODIs – the highest by an Indian bowler.
So, how did he bring in that metamorphosis? “Determination,” said Kuldeep’s childhood coach Kapil Pandey.
“He was heart-broken. Forget about playing for India, he was not even getting the game-time with KKR. It is important for a bowler to keep working on his skills to improve his craft.
“But he was not ready to give up and kept training with me for a long time at the nets. We worked on many things like delivery speed etc that could help his bowling,” said Pandey.
But then any cricketer needs the help of an expert hand, someone who has seen it and done it all kind, to expand his craft.
For Kuldeep, that person was Sunil Joshi.
The former India left-arm spinner took Kuldeep under his wings and imparted some valuable lessons at the NCA.
“In fact, I was in the selection panel when Kuldeep went down the line. It was not a pleasant sight to see a talented bowler going down. So, we met at the NCA and prepared a path ahead,” Joshi told PTI.
Joshi said Kuldeep, at that time, was a bit low on confidence and needed to tweak his bowling as well.
Days of hard work followed at the NCA nets.
“We were mainly focusing on technical aspects like reducing his strides, increasing his arm speed so that he can bowl a bit quicker through the air. His action and approach (to the bowling crease) needed to be rectified,” said Joshi.
During the time when he was in turmoil, Kuldeep had lost his accuracy and zip off the pitch that made him look pedestrian, and he leaked plenty of runs too.
Joshi suggested a few changes, and Kuldeep diligently worked on it.
“He was not having focus then, you know, the all over everywhere kind of bowling. But now, if you observe, he has lined up the batsmen well – his bowling arm is right in front of the batter, and even his strides are directed at the batter,” said Joshi.
A change of IPL franchise too worked wonders well for Kuldeep in this period – from KKR to Delhi Capitals.
“Kuldeep was telling me that he received plenty of backing at DC from (head coach) Ricky Ponting and assured him of good enough game-time.
“It is important for a bowler to have the support of captain and coach, and that’s why I think he excelled under MS Dhoni,” said Pandey.
Joshi has little doubt that Kuldeep will be Rohit Sharma’s go-to bowler in the ODI World Cup.
“He has this ability to take the ball away from the left-handers, and he needs to use his stock ball (one that comes in if a batter is right-handed) against them.
“It will be handy for India because many teams have 2 or 3 left-handers in their batting order.
“While bowling against the right-hander, Kuldeep will have to make use of that one that goes away from them (the wrong’un), as it will keep them in doubt,” said Joshi.
Joshi said Kuldeep is a natural predator, and the team should make use of that quality to the hilt.
“He is a wicket-taking bowler, who will come in very handy in the middle-overs. Bowlers like (Ravindra) Jadeja or Axar (Patel) purchase wickets by limiting the run flow, thereby building pressure.
“But Kuldeep can pick up wickets under any conditions just by his variations. So, it will be exciting to watch him in the World Cup,” he added.