Belonging to a rare breed of bowlers, Kuldeep Yadav, at only 22, has already inspired confidence in all three formats of the game. But with competition from his own teammates, the Chinaman has more boarding passes under his name, than the number of international games he has played.
The inclusion of Hardik Pandya in the first two Tests against Sri Lanka meant skipper Virat Kohli didn’t want a third frontline spinner in the squad. Playing three spinners in the subcontinent would be too much of a luxury for India. Pandya justified his selection, and the spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja continued their usual business of wreaking havoc, which meant Kuldeep’s tour to Sri Lanka would be restricted to being the drinks carrier unless an injury to any of the bowlers made way for him.
One man’s loss is another man’s gain; more aptly in cricket. If not injury, Ravindra Jadeja’s suspension from the dead rubber at Pallekele could just be Kuldeep’s best chance to make his way into the playing XI. For the dispirited Sri Lankan batsmen, it will be difficult to read the unorthodox bowler, especially on the typical subcontinent pitch.
The Uttar Pradesh bowler made a dream Test debut against Australia earlier this year in Dharamsala, in which he pocketed 4-68, outfoxing batsmen like Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, and Peter Handscomb.
One of the factors that can be attributed to India’s loss against Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the Champions Trophy 2017 was lack of variety in the bowling department. That was when the wristspinner and his bag of tricks was missed. Perhaps, the selectors noted down their misjudgment and sent Kuldeep to the West Indies last month, where he was handed his ODI cap. He quickly rose to prominence in coloured clothes too, picking up eight wickets in four games.
After grabbing both his Test and ODI opportunities with both hands, dropping Kuldeep from the tour of Sri Lanka was not an option. But as aforementioned, benching an experienced Ashwin and Jadeja was not an option either. That, despite Kuldeep registering a figure of 4-14 in the tour match of the tournament.
But now that the opportunity to play his second Test match has arrived, don’t be surprised if the Kolkata Knight Riders’ Chinaman outshines the other bowlers in the Indian squad with his cross-seam deliveries and wrong-uns. He has been doing that for quite some time now.