After A Forgettable 2019, Which Is The Next Step For Kuldeep Yadav? > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - After a forgettable 2019, what next for Kuldeep Yadav?

Can Kuldeep Yadav still make a case for next year's T20 WC?

Can Kuldeep Yadav still make a case for next year's T20 WC?

"Kuldeep is our frontline number one overseas spinner (in Tests)." It was a statement Ravi Shastri, India's head coach, had made only 10 months ago, soon after the chinaman had picked up a fifer in Sydney. It was quite a thumping validation for a six-Test-old spinner averaging in the mid-20s, especially given that Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja had done little wrong in the last two years to not be considered worthy of such a position, even if they hadn't been overtly impressive either.

More than Jadeja and Ashwin's lack of success abroad, it was a testament to the ascendency of Kuldeep Yadav in the pecking order. An experiment gone too well for India in limited-overs cricket soon after the Champions Trophy loss, had already seen the left-arm leggie - along with Yuzvendra Chahal - usurp Ashwin and Jadeja's spots, and it wasn't too far-fetched to believe that the Indian team management would have wanted to stretch that to the Tests as well.

In limited overs cricket, he was a wicket-taking weapon in the middle overs, and along with Chahal, had often turned the course of contests - in India and abroad. His success was became a benchmark for world cricket to follow. He was the second fastest Indian to 50 ODI wickets, and still remains on course to be the fastest to the 100-wicket mark. Till the time he was garnering success, wrist spin was the trendy 'in thing', and nothing shored up affirmation levels more than the positives of the art.

But mid-way through the home series against Australia earlier this year, Shaun Marsh had his measure. The fact that the video analysts had worked him out and that the Australian southpaw was executing the plans well negated Kuldeep's impact to a great extent. And from there, it went spiralling downwards. First in Delhi and then in Mohali, he was not only seen off safely, but even attacked. His googlies weren't as deceptive anymore, he was leaking runs and most importantly, the wickets - his biggest strength - started to dry up.

It could've been viewed as an occasional blip, but only if it wasn't to act as a precursor to what followed in the IPL. In a tournament where he has never really shone through, he had his worst run. Even for a KKR side that was collectively falling apart, Kuldeep was benched after returning only four wickets in 9 matches, at an economy rate of 8.67.

He was being studied well, read off his hands, and there was little with which he could counter the batsmen who had stepped up their game against him. The pattern followed in the World Cup. And when India realised that there was a need for batting depth and that Chahal was proving to be the better of the two wrist spinners, Kuldeep had to again sit out. And since then, he has never returned to the side. He went MIA, and so did the talks of wristspin. A career that saw a high of 76 international wickets in 2018, dipped to 36 this year, with no more Test matches to his credit.

There were times though when he could make it, like the Ranchi Test against South Africa, where an injured shoulder kept him out. He has recovered now, and after some experiments, finds himself in a big mix as India look to settle in on their spin combination.

There is a three-spin strategy that India have looked to adopt in recent times as preparation for next year's World Cup. And even in that, there isn't really an easy avenue for Kuldeep to slide in. Virat Kohli explained India's spin plan heading to the world T20 next year, and even as he spoke about the need to be unpredictable, he also highlighted the possibility of playing only one wrist spinner in the XI.

"Having two wrist spinners is a big advantage when you're playing in Australia on big fields," he said ahead of the first T20I against West Indies. "There might be some games where both might play together but in T20 cricket it's all about balance. And predominantly, we see one guy (wrist spinner) playing with Jadeja and Washi because it gives us all kinds of variety in the bowling attack - along with the two seamers and the allrounder, the seaming allrounder.

"You need to have six bowling options in T20 cricket, that's the basic rule. You can't go in with five expecting everyone to bowl four good overs. It gets very difficult as a team after a while. I think that is the balance that we need to create."

In saying so, he admitted two key factors. One, India isn't going with an XI filled with the best of both skills (batting and bowling), like they had done for the 50-over World Cup. They're now relying on overall balance. Hence, with Kuldeep's inability to make a case with his batting or fielding, there is just one spot that he is left contesting for - with Chahal. Two, Washington Sundar's value to this side at the start of the innings. With the current troika of Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja/Krunal Pandya and Sundar, all the bases are covered. In such a case, Kuldeep's skills - of taking the ball away from the left-hander - comes in direct competition with Washington, who as Kohli later stated, becomes a key in the powerplay overs, even if his superior batting and fielding skills are to be kept aside.

T20Is in 2019

Even as this pattern is being experimented with, it isn't all grim and gloom for Kuldeep. They (Chahal, Washington and Jadeja/Krunal) have all impressed in patches, but haven't really given a strong validation for their selection, as individuals or as a group.

Over the course of time, India have had mediocre returns in T20Is, especially as a bowling unit. More importantly, the spinners have struggled to pick wickets, and as a result failed to break momentum. Even Chahal, hasn't been as effective working as the lone spinner. Thus, if Kuldeep was to be back in contention again, it has to be at the back of India's need to find wickets in the middle overs - the one that had made him so invaluable in the national setup earlier.

For now, 2019, a year that came with promise, is headed for an underwhelming finish for him. It's a year he'd want to forget, but there's still a lot of time before the next big tournament, one in which he'd hope to find his wicket-taking skills and his place in the side back.

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