What Makes Kuldeep Yadav Different From Other Wrist Spinners
16 February 2018. India just completed a 5-1 series win against the South African team on their home soil. The man at the forefront of such a glorious series victory, with 17 wickets in 6 matches, was a 23-year-old left-arm wrist spinner from Uttar Pradesh on his first tour of the country. He was none other than Kuldeep Yadav, the one tipped to be India’s finest ever since he burst on to the international scene in the U-19 World Cup in 2014.
At that time, Pundits gave their opinions, fans expressed their thoughts on the bowler – ‘Kuldeep is going to make England sweat with his wrist spin when India locks horns with them at their backyard four months later’.
12 July 2018. England’s performance in the first ODI at Trent Bridge revealed that there was actually plenty to worry and ponder about. The team that posted 400+ totals in the previous two completed ODIs at the same venue succumbed to Kuldeep Yadav’s scintillating spell of wrist-spin that saw him picking up 6/25 in his 10 overs. This was the second time Kuldeep made the English batsmen dance to his tunes in the span of a week. In the first T20I at Manchester, he returned with a five-wicket haul as well.
So, what sets Kuldeep apart from other wrist spinners who proved to be ineffective against the English juggernaut? The English skipper Eoin Morgan said, “It’s the left arm-spin (that is an issue). He bowls well and disguises things well.”
However, there is more to Kuldeep’s bowling than just disguising things well.
Kuldeep is slower through the air, gives more flight and pitches most of his deliveries on the fuller length as compared to modern day wrist spinners, most of whom bowl a flatter trajectory at greater speeds. He has completely debunked the general notion that classical spinners cannot be successful in this era of cricket. Numbers don’t lie and they justify how successful his bowling style has been so far. Statistics of 45 wickets in 21 ODIs, 24 in 12 T20Is and 9 in 2 Tests at scintillating averages of 17.91, 13.20 and 20.77 speak highly of his wicket-taking ability.
Turns the Ball Both Ways
Kuldeep Yadav’s ability to turn the ball big both ways is a weapon which makes even the best of batsmen weary of his bowling.
The wickets, the conditions or anything else doesn’t matter to him. He backs himself to spin the ball in any condition and on any kind of pitch.
Difficult to Read Off the Hand
If his ability to turn the ball both ways is a problem for the batsmen, it is further bolstered by the difficulties in reading the deliveries off his hand during release. He is really deceptive in the way he uses his wrist and delivers the ball. He has a very effective googly and it leaves the batsmen totally bamboozled.
Patience, Work Ethic and Consistency
His patience, work ethic and consistency play a big part in his success as a wrist-spinner.
Kuldeep has a very strong mindset. He backs his strengths and sticks to the basics more often than not. If he doesn’t succeed and luck doesn’t favour him even on unleashing his biggest weapon time and again, he doesn’t get frustrated. He sticks to the line and lengths he bowls and more often than not it pays off in the end. He keeps bowling wicket to wicket no matter how aggressive the batsman tries to be. He knows that all he needs is one good delivery that turns enough to get the better of the batsman.
In T20Is also, those dismissals constitute 54.17 percent (13 out of 24) of the wickets he has taken so far.
Consider bowlers like Lakshan Sandakan of Sri Lanka or Tabraiz Shamsi of South Africa for example. Did they ever create this kind of impact in world cricket? The answer is no.
Sandakan has taken 15 wickets in 12 ODIs at a dismal average of 38.06 and strike rate of 36.1. Shamsi’s record is similar which reads 7 wickets in 7 ODIs at an average and strike rate of 39.71 and 48.8, respectively. So, this is how Kuldeep is different from the rest of the lot.
It’s true that Kuldeep still has a long way to go and there always remains the chance of the mystery being found out as the career of a bowler progresses. However, his bowling is less about mystery and more about skill and one can never get the better of skills as legends like Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan have shown in the past. Kuldeep is destined to end up in their league and nothing can stop him if he keeps working in the same way.
(Prasenjit Dey is a freelance cricket writer. He can be reached at @Prosen02. The opinions expressed are the author’s own and The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)