Kuldeep Yadav 3.0, the complete package

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

“The art of leg-spin is not just bowling a leg-break; the art of leg-spin is to examine, deceive and outwit,” wrote the late Shane Warne in his autobiography, No Spin. “That is the whole art. And within it is the magic.” 

Warne passed away in 2022, but somewhere up in heaven, he would be chuffed to observe how Kuldeep has turned out to be a worthy disciple. The Kanpur-born cricketer, who initially wanted to follow in the footsteps of another magician, Wasim Akram, has been bamboozling one batter after another with his box of variations. More importantly, he never compromises on searching for wickets by employing the ‘big break’.

To illustrate how Kuldeep outfoxes his opponents, just consider the duel between him and Glenn Maxwell, ‘the Big Show’, in St Lucia. On that occasion, he lured Maxwell out of the crease with a loopy delivery. On expected lines, Maxwell skipped down the deck, but he perhaps did that a little too early and all he could hear was the death rattle. 

In the crucial semi-final against England, Kuldeep was again on top of his game. He reserved his best for the only English batter who played him with a degree of confidence – Harry Brook. The Yorkshire batter was picking Kuldeep reasonably well. After being beaten by a delivery from Kuldeep that turned considerably, he cracked the sweep. And then, he used the reverse-sweep too against a quicker delivery.

Kuldeep, however, had that last laugh. Knowing that Brook would again attempt the reverse-sweep, he changed the line to around leg stump. Not surprisingly, Brook tried to nail the reverse-hit, but was beaten by the line and the flipper. Just like Maxwell, he too had to hear the rattle of the timber. If Maxwell was done in by tantalising flight, then Kuldeep outsmarted Brook with Plan B. Now, that is a hallmark of a bowler who is at the peak of his prowess.

It is true that Kuldeep has tried to bowl quicker through the air in the recent past, but that doesn’t mean he has stopped looking for the big-turning stock delivery. Another facet of his game where Kuldeep has improved significantly is his control, which could be noticed in his noteworthy figures of 2 for 24 from four overs in good batting conditions in St Lucia. 

Incidentally, a couple of years ago, when Kuldeep had just returned from a knee injury, Kapil Pandey, his coach, told this writer about how his ward had diligently worked on spot bowling – basically, hitting the good length spot time and again in net sessions. Kuldeep has also tweaked his run-up, alongside loading. All those factors have brought that fizz back to his bowling.

Kuldeep has now tasted success across formats and in different conditions. Just like Warne, his idol, he has a collection of prized scalps, where the batters trudged back to the pavilion with a befuddled look – be it Zak Crawley or Babar Azam. 

There was perhaps a time when Kuldeep seemed to get flustered by a batter launching a slew of shots. Not so now. Rather, it feels as if he enjoys the challenge of a batter playing aggressively against him. His batting is also on an upward curve. Simply put, Kuldeep has become the complete package. India would trust their talisman to lift his game once more in the all-important final against South Africa. Maybe, just maybe, Warne too would be keeping an eye on Kuldeep in the summit clash, in an imaginary land, far away from the mundane world.