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Men’s ODI WC: Delightful Kuldeep Yadav amongst the wickets for India by bamboozling batters

New Delhi : In popular culture, deja vu is described as having the uncanny feeling of doing or seeing something which has happened before. That familiar feeling had come up again in the mind of Indian fans at the Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow when India spinner Kuldeep Yadav bamboozled England captain Jos Buttler with an absolute ripper of a delivery.

On the first ball of the 16th over, Kuldeep tossed up the leg-break, his stock delivery, outside the off-stump. Seeing that, Buttler looked to go on the backfoot, shaping for a cut through the off-side. But the ball spun in dramatically and went through the gate to hit the top of middle-stump.

Buttler was left leaning over the bat and wondered over what happened just now over the ball which turned in by a whopping 7.2 degrees. On the other side, Kuldeep was in celebratory mode, stretching his arms out and embraced by his team-mates as England lost half of their side, and eventually lost by 100 runs.

Kuldeep’s bamboozling of Buttler reminded fans quickly of how the left-arm wrist-spinner had outsmarted Pakistan’s Babar Azam in a similar fashion during the 2019 Men’s ODI World Cup in Manchester. Amongst the 46,000 fans who saw this ripper of a scene live in Lucknow, there was one who felt immensely proud – Kapil Pandey, Kuldeep’s childhood coach.

“I hadn’t got any plan to watch the game in Lucknow. But Rajeev Shukla invited me to come and watch the game. Plus, the World Cup is a huge event and then I got the urge to watch Kuldeep’s bowling closely.”  

“I even met Kuldeep in the night before and told him to bowl well. He replied, ‘I am going to bowl well in the match and you need not worry, you just be relaxed’. Plus, he’s very confident, which reflects in his performance so far.”

“Seeing Kuldeep outsmart Buttler happening in front of my eyes added more to my happiness. I saw that Babar Azam dismissal on TV and after seeing that Buttler dismissal live, it gave me a very proud feeling of seeing Kuldeep do well. He is bowling very well and is in top form of his whole career,” said Pandey to IANS.

Pandey believes similarities exist between Kuldeep bamboozling Buttler and Azam in the World Cup, but the left-arm wrist-spinner outclassing Glenn Maxwell during the India-Australia match in Chennai is the closest dismissal to his heart. Kuldeep’s quicker leg-break hastened off the pitch and Maxwell missed it completely while shaping to play the pull, only to see his leg-stump being knocked over.

“The big leg-break Kuldeep bowls in the nets too and it spun well. With some assistance from the wicket, he also gets a big turn in. Maxwell can hit balls to all parts of the stadium. That delivery from Kuldeep which took him out was a wonderful ball and I feel it was the best dismissal.”

“With the spin and speed, Kuldeep outsmarted Maxwell, who didn’t even have a clue. Here, to dismiss Buttler, Kuldeep got a huge turn on the leg-break, a massive weapon in his armoury and seeing these kinds of dismissals gives a lot of happiness to the coach too. For a spinner, if the spin landing and rotation when he’s turning the ball and the drift is maintained, then a batter can’t read it,” he adds.

2023 has been a year where Kuldeep has been amongst the wickets for India, a story which is happening in the ODI World Cup. With his turn, bounce, drift, and zip, he has been consistently amongst the wickets. As of now, Kuldeep has ten wickets in six games, averaging 26.10, at an economy rate of 4.50.

The only time Kuldeep was kept under pressure in the tournament was against New Zealand in Dharamshala, where attacking shots from Daryl Mitchell and Rachin Ravindra meant he leaked 48 runs in his first five overs. But Kuldeep resorted to keep attacking without altering his lengths and increased his pace, resulting in things happening in rapid fashion.

Mitchell could have been caught at long-off, but Jasprit Bumrah shelled the chance. After that, Kuldeep trapped Tom Latham lbw and had Glenn Phillips caught in the in-field while conceding only 25 runs in his last five overs, thus completing a solid fightback.

“Kuldeep wasn’t able to understand the behaviour of the wicket in Dharamshala initially. When the batter attacks a bowler, his mindset then becomes to save himself. But you can’t do that as if you become defensive as a main spinner, then you will put the team in trouble.”

“In this situation, attacking was the best option and Kuldeep came back to attacking by using the googly, getting some spin and even bowled some quicker deliveries. Everyone is human and it takes time to read the wicket, which happened with Kuldeep and he did come back with a great second spell,” adds Pandey.

Though Pandey believes Kuldeep has still got a lot to do, he credits working hard on lengths to bowl during the Covid-19 lockdown as the starting point of him becoming a trump card for India. But he wasn’t given a game by Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL 2021 and a knee injury needing surgery put him out of action.

“If one sees, he rarely pitched it short and hasn’t bowled a full toss yet in the World Cup. Maintaining the lengths has led to him strengthening his standards and he’s now become an even bigger player.”

“I am always thankful to God that his recovery from injury went well and he got all the help and support from physio and trainer. When he came back, we practised for long hours. He had difficulty in landing his foot while bowling initially and taking idea from the time when I had been injured too, we started off with Kuldeep bowling three overs,” he recalls.

When things began to be better, Kuldeep practised under Pandey at the ground from 9am to 5:30pm for many days. “Then he went for further rehab and after coming back, we arranged two matches for him, where he took three and five wickets respectively. Then Kanpur district league matches happened, where he took five wickets.”

“It was very painful – the whole process of recovery and rehab, then be fine, come back to the ground and reclaim the lost rhythm. Bowling at international level is different from domestic cricket as there’s a lot of pressure involved and pride of country is at stake too, and it’s great to see that he’s doing well now for India in the World Cup.”

As of now, Kuldeep has taken 43 wickets in ODIs in 2023, the most by any bowler. With steely determination, resilience and zip plus rhythm back, trust Kuldeep to bowl India to ascendancy in coming matches and make Pandey proud with every outing by bamboozling batters, like he did in Lucknow.

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