I enjoyed picking the wicket of Harry Brook in the semi-final: Kuldeep Yadav

Kuldeep Yadav vs Australia
Kuldeep Yadav has bene bowling at his best in the T20 WC (PC: Kuldeep Yadav)

Kuldeep Yadav played a huge role in the Indian cricket team lifting the ICC T20 World Cup in the Caribbean. The left-arm spinner from Kanpur picked up 10 wickets from five games at an economy rate of 6.95. Looking at Kuldeep’s performance, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi even hailed him as Desh ka Deep [light of the nation]. Kuldeep, who is currently enjoying his time with family, will be flying to Berlin soon to watch the Euro 2024 football final. In a freewheeling chat with RevSportz, he shared his views on the successful campaign, Rohit Sharma’s captaincy, his role in the side, Virat Kohli’s knock in the final and lot more. Here are the excerpts:

Has the T20 World Cup win sunk in?

Kuldeep: I really want to enjoy a few more days. It is an amazing feeling. I have been playing for India the last eight years and it was my first opportunity to lift the World Cup trophy. I am extremely happy and enjoying my time at home now.

You have been hailed as Desh ka deep by the honourable Prime Minister. Your thoughts?

Kuldeep: First of all I want to thank him for inviting us and spending time with us despite his busy schedule. He had a long chat with each one of us. He was very happy for us winning the T20 World Cup. He had a word with me as well. I was touched when he called me Desh ka deep. It is a moment of immense pride when you represent the country and bring glory.

How do you describe the journey, right from winning the warm-up game against Bangladesh to lifting the title at Kensington Oval?

Kuldeep: I guess the journey started from South Africa when we played that T20I series after the (50-over) World Cup. It was a huge disappointment for us to lose the World Cup despite playing well throughout the tournament. There was a desperation in the team that we need to win an ICC trophy. We played a couple more series. There was a role clarity in the team. As the T20 World Cup started, everyone clearly knew about their roles. The conditions in New York were not in favour of good batting, but the bowlers stood up and performed well. The way we bounced back to win the game against Pakistan, it gave us a lot of belief that we can win from any situation. We went in with the same approach in West Indies. The bowlers executed the planning with perfection.

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Kuldeep Yadav and Rishabh Pant
Kuldeep Yadav and Rishabh Pant (PC: Kuldeep Yadav)

Was there a desperation within the team to win the T20 World Cup after the loss in the 50-overs edition?

Kuldeep: Yes, there was a desperation within the team to win an ICC trophy. More so when you know that you have done well but failed to go the distance. I believe there was a hunger to do well and that reflected in the performance on the field. The disappointment of not winning an ICC title made each one of us motivated. Not only the captain, but every player in the side who was part of the 50-overs World Cup was desperate to do well.

You share a close bond with Rohit Sharma. Tell us about the camaraderie you share with him?

Kuldeep: He has always been very supportive and has a strong belief in my skills. There was a time when I did not have confidence in my own skills. He kept talking about the changes I need to make in my bowling way back in 2019. Rohit bhai felt if I can tweak a few areas in my bowling, I can be more difficult for the batters. When I came back from my injury, he constantly told me to make a few changes, which I did. He is like an elder brother to me and loves me a lot. He is a very straightforward guy and tells me what he wants from me. He had a specific plan for me and that was to get wickets in the middle overs. He wanted to use me as an attacking spinner.                                                                 

You were not part of the playing XI initially when matches were played in the USA because of the conditions. How did you prepare yourself mentally for the slow tracks in the Caribbean?

Kuldeep: I do not think too much and always try to remain calm. We saw the conditions in New York were in favour of the fast bowlers. But I knew I will get an opportunity on the slow tracks in the Caribbean. I did not play a game for a long time before the first Super-8 match against Afghanistan. The first delivery was a no-ball. I got my rhythm back after the first over. I have a lot of belief in my skills and back them. I do not think too much and keep it very simple. I always focus on what my length will be against a particular batter, read the pitches. I bowl according to the wicket, whether it is a slow track or not.

You were given a specific role – picking up wickets in middle overs and breaking important partnerships.

Kuldeep: As an attacking spinner, you always think about giving breakthroughs for your team. I was clear in my role that was given to me. My focus was to bowl on a good length. Not giving easy runs to the batters was in my mind. I always try to read the batsman’s mindset and try to outdo him. And that has worked in my success so far.

Among the 10 wickets you took in the tournament, which according to you was most satisfying?

Kuldeep: I enjoyed picking up the wicket of Harry Brook. He plays spin well and was batting well at that moment. The wicket of [Glenn] Maxwell was also important in the context of the match, and those two wickets I got against Afghanistan as well.

Kuldeep Yadav and others in Team India
Kuldeep Yadav and others in Team India (PC: Kuldeep Yadav)

What was going through your mind when Surya took that blinder in the final?

Kuldeep: I was fielding at deep fine leg. The talk in the huddle was whether his foot touched the boundary ropes or not. And once when we watched the replays, there was a huge sigh of relief and we started feeling that the match will be in our favour.

Your thoughts on Virat’s knock in the final, and Rohit’s innings against Australia and England?

Kuldeep: It was evident once again that when the situation demands in a crunch match, the big players step up. And Virat bhai showed why he is regarded as a great player. Rohit bhai also batted well throughout the tournament. His knock against Australia was brilliant. Talking about Virat bhai’s knock in the final, the team needed someone to step up as we were in deep trouble at 20/3. He played a great knock (76 off 59 balls) which brought us into the match. It had class written over. We did not feel we would reach a score of 175 runs. But thanks to his brilliance, we ended up scoring 176. He took 16 runs against Rabada which gave us the momentum. When the situation demanded, he scored and that is the hallmark of a big player.

Now that the two, along with [Ravindra] Jadeja have called it a day in T20 format, how big a void will their absence be?

Kuldeep: Let us savour the World Cup win now. Obviously, young players will get opportunities and they will have to prove themselves. All three of them have dominated the game and it was a perfect farewell to win the T20 World Cup.

Do you reckon Jasprit Bumrah is by far the best bowler across formats currently?

Kuldeep: Hundred percent, he (Jasprit Bumrah) is the best bowler now across the formats. We both started our international career almost at the same time. He has always stood up for the team. We are lucky to have him as a teammate. He deserves every praise. He won so many matches in crunch situations. During this T20 World Cup, he brought us back in the game against Pakistan. In the final, he bowled a tight over where he gave away only four runs, and in the next over, [Heinrich] Klassen got out. A bowler like him is very rare. His value in the team is priceless.

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