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HomeNews5th Test: In fitness of things, Kuldeep Yadav steals the spotlight

5th Test: In fitness of things, Kuldeep Yadav steals the spotlight

DHARAMSHALA: Milestones don’t matter, wickets do.

Kuldeep Yadav

, having just raced to 50 Test wickets in the second-quickest time in cricket history, was handed this important lesson from his senior spin partner

Ravichandran Ashwin

here on Thursday.
Time will tell if it was a rare passing-of-the-mantle moment, but as the Indian players trooped off the field after England’s innings here on Thursday, the ball was tossed to Ashwin to keep and lead the team off the field.

It seemed fitting, except Ashwin didn’t agree.

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Having just taken four wickets in his 100th Test, the veteran off-spinner instead tossed the ball to Kuldeep, who had snared 5/72 to break England’s back. Never one for the spotlight,

Kuldeep

quickly handed it back, and

Mohammed Siraj

was seen cajoling Ashwin to accept the offer.

Ashwin was having none of it, and after some hard convincing, it fell to Kuldeep again to show off the ball to the crowd with a shy smile on his face. It was a rare peek into the camaraderie and mutual respect which has enabled India’s spinners to keep their home soil an unbreachable fortress.
This has been a ground-breaking series for the left-arm wrist spinner, not least because he has played four Tests in succession in a career which has seen him play just 11 Tests before this since debut in 2017. That debut, incidentally, was here in Dharamshala, marking a line in the sand for this special talent.

pacer

AI generated image

It was back in the 2019 Sydney Test that then-coach

Ravi Shastri

had marked Kuldeep out as India’s lead spinner in overseas Tests, but sporadic selection, a knee injury and the fading away of his white-ball partnership with

Yuzvendra Chahal

meant Kuldeep was in serious danger of not living up to his potential.
He has since remodelled his game, adopting an action and run-up which enables him to vary his trajectory and pace, all while putting less pressure on his knee. “I put in a lot of hard work after my surgery in 2021. I worked on my pace, which is very important while bowling in India,” Kuldeep said.
“If you bowl at a certain speed and change your pace, it gets difficult for the batters. Now I am mature, I don’t think too much about taking wickets. I try to stay relaxed. It has been seven years since my debut. I understand my game better now, I know how to read the wicket.
“Bowling is all about fitness. I’ve worked a lot on my fitness in the last 18 months, I’ve been able to make changes in my technique because of increased fitness.”

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It was very challenging. It took me six to eight months to find that rhythm with a new action. Even in Rajkot and Ranchi (in this series), I’ve bowled longer spells.”
Of course, it would be fair to say Kuldeep has blossomed under captain

Rohit Sharma

. On Thursday, it was insightful to see how neatly he now fits into the team dynamics, and so interesting to watch Rohit and wicketkeeper

Dhruv Jurel

guide the spinner. Like before the Bairstow dismissal, when Rohit said, “Hawa mat de (don’t give the ball air).” Or before the Ollie Pope stumping, when Jurel warned him, “Badhega aagey, badhega aagey (he will step out, he will step out)!”
“Pope prefers stepping out and wants to dominate. He just stepped out a bit early,” Kuldeep said.
That a bowler of Kuldeep’s abilities finds himself relegated to third spinner behind Ashwin and Jadeja speaks volumes of India’s current spin riches. While that doesn’t change for now, Kuldeep has showcased his match-winning abilities repeatedly at home against a formidable opponent, with promise of more to come.
On becoming the fastest Indian to 50 Test wickets, Kuldeep said, “I don’t think about records. A Lot of players don’t get opportunities, so I’m just grateful. I’ve played a lot with Ash bhai and Jaddu bhai. In Hyderabad, I had a long chat with Ashwin and he told me about the changes I need to make in my mindset. He gives a lot of ideas. I hope they play for a long time.”
And did he keep the ball or return it to Ashwin? “He said he already has 35 balls, and asked me to keep this one.”