India vs England: Emerging Kuldeep Yadav returns to scene on his Test debut

India vs England

Although the left-arm wrist spinner had a good debut in Dharamsala in 2017, his Test career seemed to be on the wane until the tour of England.


As Dharamsala prepares for the fifth and final Test of the series, which features six debutants from both the teams, Kuldeep Yadav, one of India’s leading performers in the last few weeks, is using this long break to prepare for his debut. Can to recall seven years of memories. First.


Unlike this series, which India won with a game to spare, Kuldeep’s debut in international cricket came in the spring of 2017 in a tense decider against Australia in the quaint hill town. The left-arm wrist spinner also made an immediate impact, with match figures of 4/91 (1st innings 4/68) indicating a promising start. However, only 10 more appearances in seven years mean Kuldeep has nothing more to remember at Test level.

But it seems that is changing. Kuldeep, 29, has gone about his business with confidence and awareness in this series, showing that he is finally comfortable with all the layers of his complex craft. The numbers testify to his remarkable contribution in India’s 3-1 series lead – he has taken 12 wickets at a strike rate of 42.5 in just three Test matches, second only to the incomparable Jasprit Bumrah.

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Assuming nothing untoward happens between now and the start of the fifth Test on Thursday, another measure of Kuldeep’s progress will be playing four consecutive Tests for the first time in his stop-start career. The presence of an extra fast bowler may be necessary due to the cold conditions in Dharamshala, but India should not gamble with Kuldeep’s position at any cost. As he has already shown with some match-changing performances against England and indeed on debut, it is not beyond Kuldeep to make a mark even in batting or seam-friendly conditions.

The vivid proof of his progress lies in his magic in the morning session of the third day in Rajkot. Late on the second day, Kuldeep bore the brunt of centurion Ben Duckett’s attack, conceding 42 runs in six wicketless overs, leaving England at 207/2. It seemed as if a perceived weakness, which had led to Kuldeep’s white-ball decline a few years ago, had come to light when targeted. The benefit of a night’s rest and a modification of plans, however, allowed Kuldeep to make a strong comeback the next day, dismissing Duckett and Jonny Bairstow in a fascinating spell of classical wrist spin.

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The same magnetic performance was seen in the second innings in Ranchi. Kuldeep was unnecessarily bowled in the first innings as Joe Root’s century took the visiting team to 353 runs. When it came to his turn to bowl in the second innings, it was an afterthought for captain Rohit Sharma, with England reaching 97/3 in 24 overs. Over for a total lead of 143 runs. This was when Kuldeep came into his own again, orchestrating the downfall of Jack Crawley and Ben Stokes with an excellent exhibition of flight, drift and turn.

For Crawley, he left the cover area open, encouraging the lanky opener to play through that gap. Crawley had turned Ashwin against the boundary on the way to his half-century and he did not realize the danger in doing the same against Kuldeep, not taking into account his ability to cause more mischief with the ball. A wrist spinner. Kuldeep happily bowled the ball outside off and swung it through the bat-pad gap to trouble Crawley’s stumps.

Such performances are a result of the technical changes Kuldeep has incorporated since his knee injury at the end of 2021. Away from the dazzle, which surgery and rehabilitation allowed, an integral part of his development has been an increase in pace that has snatched extra milliseconds for batsmen to adjust to the turn. The results were already clear in white-ball cricket. Since returning from injury, he has taken 61 wickets in 38 ODI matches at an average of 21.91.

“My run-up has straightened out. My rhythm has become aggressive. My hand (non-bowling arm) might have fallen a little earlier. Now it is pointing more towards the batter. Plus, I haven’t lost my spin or flow. My pace has increased a bit, which is helping me,” Kuldeep had said last year.

If he can score long enough runs with the red ball, the positive impact of these changes should be felt in the five-day game as well. Which brings us to an important question: how often should Kuldeep feature in India’s Test team going forward?

This question was raised after Kuldeep took five wickets against Australia in Sydney in 2019, after which then coach Ravi Shastri claimed that he would be India’s No. 1 spinner in overseas Tests. That Kuldeep had to wait more than two years to play another Test shows that things did not go the way he wanted. By the end of 2019, in fact, Kuldeep had lost his way to such an extent that even his place in the ODI team was in question.

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