Published from Mumbai, Delhi & Bhopal

Reading the batters, not trying much – the Kuldeep Yadav formula of holding your own

New Delhi : At the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Wednesday, Gujarat Titans were having a flying start in their chase of 225 against Delhi Capitals. They had amassed 61/1 from Power-play and it looked like they would ace another chase. But with Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav operating from both ends, DC were beginning to have some control.

After Axar was taken for 13 runs in his second over, the onus was on Yadav to get DC a breakthrough. In his second over, Yadav bowled three short balls, before enticing Wriddhiman Saha to slice at a spinning away delivery. To his and DC’s delight, Saha went for a huge slash, but couldn’t keep it down and Axar timed his jump well at cover to take the catch.

For the rest of his spell, Yadav would mix tossed-up and short balls, while varying the pace. He signed off with a spell of 2-29 by catching a faint edge of Rahul Tewatia through a short ball outside off-stump, which was safely pouched by Rishabh Pant. In a match, where the aggregate was 400+ as fans were treated to another run-fest, Yadav’s spell was the best amongst spinners from both sides.

“Happy to get the win! These two points are very important. Was an amazing game, held our nerve in the last over and turned out to be very tight. Obviously we had a plan. Coach and captain wanted one over (from me) when (Rahul) Tewatia came out (to bat).”

“I bowled a few balls to Tewatia into the wicket. I thought he would slog sweep. That was a good plan with Rishabh (in the end), and we got his wicket and it put us in a good position,” said Yadav after DC won the match by four runs.

Focusing on a steady line and length was also the key to his success against GT. “You have to read the batsman and see what they are trying to do. We batted well and put up a good total on the board. I didn’t try too much when I came out to bowl. The line and length mattered a lot,” added Yadav.

In a season in which batters have majorly called the shots through blazing Power-plays and Impact Player empowering them to go harder on the bowlers, it is heartening to see Yadav hold his own, as seen from 12 wickets in six matches this season, being second leading spin wicket-taker in the tournament after Yuzvendra Chahal.

Five days ago, on April 20, at the same venue, against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Travis Head and Abhishek Sharma amassed a staggering 125 in the Power-play, the highest-ever six-over score in any T20 game. With the possibility of 300 lurking around, Kuldeep Yadav came on to pick four SRH wickets in 17 balls of the middle-overs phase to finish with 4-55.

At a DC media day on Monday, Yadav elaborated on how bowlers have to be confident and brave in their abilities to stop rampaging batters in IPL 2024.

“Teams are obviously looking to attack more in the Powe-plays now and maximise when there’s fielding restrictions. I feel bowlers need to be braver because the T20 format has evolved in the way that the batters are always on the attack and that, I feel, keeps the bowlers in play all the time.”

“Even if you’re getting hit for runs, you’re still in the game (if you become brave). Secondly, I feel nowadays the bowlers think way too much about the batters and what he’s trying to do instead of sticking to their own strengths. In trying to bowl according to the batters’ weakness he ends up leaking more runs anyway. The bowlers will have to understand their own strengths instead and back themselves, that most important.”

Further talking about confidence in himself to stand up for his team, Yadav said, “It’s all about confidence, I feel. If you have the confidence you want to take that responsibility to bowl the tough overs, and if you’re not confident you’re trying to hide on the field then. I’ve always tried to take the ball in challenging situations to try and induce a wicket and make a difference for the team.”

“I’ve barely seen a few bowlers, maybe Jassi (Jasprit Bumrah) – the way he bowls and backs his strengths keeps the batters on the backfoot always. Even mentally that gives the bowler an edge over the batters, and that remains among one of the most important traits for bowlers in the T20 format now,” he said.

Since Kuldeep Yadav joined DC in 2022, he’s grown in confidence to be the lead bowler for the franchise in taking out wickets and containing run-flow in middle-overs, while giving special mention to Ricky Ponting and Shane Watson for giving him the support to get his rhythm back.

It’s a far cry from his time at Kolkata Knight Riders, which resulted in him being benched from mid-way of IPL 2019. The tough time at KKR and shift to DC after a knee surgery has also made Yadav wiser in his bowling approach, apart from adding more tools in his armoury like increased pace under the tutelage of his childhood coach Kapil Pandey.

“It still hurts to think about my time at KKR. When I see myself now (as compared to then), I feel if I could do things that I’m capable of doing now, I would have been able to dominate the game more from that time itself. But that didn’t happen; that’s experience, I guess. You can’t buy it, you have to play and fail and succeed in life to get that experience.

“If you look at me now, as compared to my time a KKR, I’m a lot more confident and I have a lot more belief in my skill. At the same time, I’m also a lot respectful of the opponent. I feel I understand their game a lot more now, which I probably didn’t earlier.”

“(Now there’s) maturity, to understand what the batters’ game plan is and what I have to do to counter him, what’s my strengths and where I should be bowling to make life difficult for the batter,” he elaborated.

Compared to 45 wickets in 40 games for KKR, coming at an average of 30.9 and economy rate of 8.27, Kuldeep Yadav’s time at DC has fetched him 41 wickets in 33 games so far, at an average of 22.73 and economy rate of 7.85.

If his stellar time continues in IPL 2024, on the back of what has brought him success so far, one can be sure that Kuldeep Yadav will still hold his own as a lead spinner when the Indian team goes to the Caribbean and the USA for the T20 World Cup.

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