Kuldeep India’s big X factor in semi-final against England in Guyana

Kuldeep Yadav vs Australia
Kuldeep Yadav vs Australia (PC: Kuldeep Yadav)

It can be a bit weird when it comes to how and why people rediscover themselves. What triggers that can’t be explained easily and to be honest, it’s actually a meaningless exercise because something that works for someone may not for others. So, it’s best to leave it where it is.

For Kuldeep Yadav, this apparently happened in a club game in Uttar Pradesh, the state he comes from. Low on confidence and having begun to underestimate himself, he stumbled upon something which gave him belief anew. He found his confidence back. His trust in his abilities strengthened and he once again started doing what he does best — giving it a rip.

Moving ahead to Georgetown in Guyana — where India will try to exorcise the demon of being thrashed by England in the T20 World Cup semi-final in 2022 — Kuldeep will be the biggest weapon against the same opponents, at the same stage of the competition this time around. The pitch at Providence Stadium is a slow-turner, which makes him a potentially lethal proposition.

Benched for the US chapter of the ongoing tournament, the left-arm wrist-spin bowler has come out guns blazing once he got a chance to be a part of the XI. Seven wickets in three matches for 75 runs from 12 overs are stunning numbers. He has taken vital scalps too, at critical stages, the Australia game being an example where he turned the match in India’s favour.

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

The inherent complicated attributes of a left-arm unorthodox bowler apart, Kuldeep has also been rewarded for his diligence. He has been unafraid to toss the ball up at times and also darted in some quick ones. Batters have found it difficult to read him off the pitch and in the air, which has resulted in a few dismissals caused by the confusion he created in their minds. He could make the ball turn earlier as well, but now he has got more control over the degree of turn.

In a team which has Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep is a huge bonus actually. Batters find it difficult to negotiate the fast man, who is equally or even more unorthodox, and then come up against another who they do not quite fathom. It’s a rare luxury that this Indian team possesses and no matter how much homework England do, they will find it difficult to solve this riddle. A lot of their task will be based on educated guesswork, which is lottery to an extent.

Kuldeep will enjoy this situation. He has fond memories of the Caribbean islands, having made his white-ball debut over there in 2017. A vital cog of the spin wing with Yuzvendra Chahal, then dropped because of dip in performance and confidence, and back again as the principal spin operator of the team — he has seen ups and downs. At 29 years of age, he is in the ideal stage of maturity to make it count.

Guyana might just be the place for Kuldeep to write a new chapter in his tale of rediscovering himself. He is thinking batters out, other than outwitting them with his unpredictable directions of turn off the pitch. There is variation in flight, pace and line as well. It can be a deadly concoction in a format where batters have to go for broke all the time.

Then, to think, that all this began in a non-descript club match in Uttar Pradesh is a fascinating story. However, the story is not over yet. This Indian team will believe that there is more to it and so will Kuldeep. He has been there, seen what he had to and now is the time for him to deliver the knockout punch in that stage of the competition. England would be very, very wary.

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