Why India need to unleash Kuldeep Yadav
India has a great pace bowling unit but it could be the left arm wrist spinner who holds the key to India’s future success overseas.
March 25, 2017: The start of the decider in what had so far been a fascinating Test series in the latest edition of an intense rivalry for the Border-Gavaskar trophy. India and Australia are deadlocked at 1-1, with the series and bragging rights at stake. But even before the commencement, the hosts have been dealt a killer blow, losing their captain and talismanic batsman Virat Kohli to a shoulder injury. India are staring at the ignominy of losing a Test series at home to their bitter rivals in way over a decade. With the series on the line India has to attack if they are to emerge triumphant. Under such tense circumstances vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane is elevated to the hot seat and tasked with the unenviable job of selecting the team. Should they replace their captain with another batsman in a straight swap or go with an attacking option of playing five bowlers? The safer move- with the series hanging in the balance- would be to play a batsman. But India coach Anil Kumble is keen to blood 22 year old unorthodox left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav, even though Team India captain Kohli is against it. The decision ultimately rests with Rahane and the stand- in skipper decides to go with the extra bowler, handing the youngster his Test cap.
The rest as they say is history! From cruising at 144-1on the opening day, Australia crashes to 300 all out on the same day with the Aussie batsmen, including the well- set David Warner, all being bamboozled by the left- arm wrist spinner. Kuldeep Yadav goes on to bag 4 wickets in the innings and decisively swing the momentum India’s way. It is an inspired selection and one that plays a pivotal role in India winning the match and thereby clinching the series.
Alas, since then the youngster has featured in only 4 Tests in over a year and a half, in a period in which India has played a total of 17 matches. This sounds absolutely baffling but India went with the tried and tested duo of R.Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who were still doing the job at home and the wickets overseas, and could not justify the inclusion of an additional spinner.
Thus the talented spinner was left to ply his trade in the shorter formats for India. He wasn’t to be disheartened though, performing admirably instead, turning in match winning performances time and again for his country whenever he was called upon. But for all the accolades he garnered in T20’s and ODI’s, it is in the cauldron of the Test arena where legends are born and careers defined.
India have been presented with a real opportunity here. In the young left-arm wrist spinner they possess a rare commodity, a priceless gem, one not to be found in any other Test nation at the moment and probably hardly, if any, in the rest of the cricket world. If he is groomed properly, India could harness him into a massive weapon in their bowling arsenal. They need to back him by giving him more playing opportunities, especially abroad. It’s all well and good to take wickets at home but it is by performing abroad that his confidence will well and truly grow. After all Shane Warne became the legend he is known today after his breakthrough series in England in 1993. But even prior to that his confidence got a shot in the arm when he was trusted by his skipper Allan Border to bowl at a crucial juncture at Colombo in the 1992 series against Sri Lanka. He had a disastrous start to his career against India, but the selectors persisted with him and his captain backed him. And when he snared 3 Sri Lankan wickets in that match and helped Australia to an unbelievable come from behind win, the blond leg-spinner had finally arrived. As we all know now, he went on to become the greatest leg-spinner of all time. That is what confidence does (obviously apart from having the requisite talent) and the backing of the people who matter. That is exactly what Kuldeep Yadav needs.
He has the talent and the skills and at this stage of his career looks a more complete bowler than the Aussie magician was at a similar stage. India did try to give him that chance at Lords’s this year but the selection was ill advised in a move that backfired in perfect seaming conditions. However that should not deter India from keeping the faith in this wonderful talent. He has the X-factor about him and no batsman has been able to pick him thus far. At The MCG and The SCG, where he will get help from the wicket, especially towards the latter half of the Tests- and against a team that doesn’t play spin well- he needs to be picked. If he seizes his opportunity, it could give India a real chance in the series and possibly be the birth of a glorious Test career. R.Ashwin has been entrusted with the sole spinner’s role abroad for far too long, without the numbers behind him to merit future selection. Perhaps it’s time India looked to Kuldeep to take up that mantle. Who knows, he could well turnout to be the missing link in an otherwise fabulous bowling unit for India and what better place to do it then against arch rivals Australia, in their own backyard.
For that, if for nothing else, Kuldeep Yadav needs to be unleashed!