Kuldeep Yadav has bowled in two matches for India. On Test debut in March, he took four first-innings wickets, turning the ball both ways to trip Australia up after they were 144 for 1 in the series decider. The first time he bowled in an ODI, on Sunday, Kuldeep had West Indies in a tangle with his wrong ‘uns and finished with 3 for 50. What is it that makes the 22-year old left-arm wristspinner hard to handle?
“It becomes difficult when he bowls cross-seam deliveries turning both ways,” the India captain Virat Kohli said, after his side’s 105-run victory in the second ODI in Trinidad. “Usually bowlers bowl seam-up deliveries turning in and cross seam bowling the googly. But he can do both bowling cross seam, so that becomes difficult to pick from the wrist.
“Then when batsmen try to attack, he can slow his pace down, just beat the batsmen halfway into the pitch. So he’s quite amazing with what he does with the ball. I’ve faced him in the IPL as well, he’s not easy to get away – especially when the wicket is dry like it was today, he becomes even more lethal. Credit to him for putting in a performance like that in his first bowling performance in ODIs.”
In the Champions Trophy earlier this month in England, India had an unlikely weakness: spin. The offspin of R Aswhin and left-arm spin of Ravindra Jadeja proved ineffective, prompting former captain Rahul Dravid to suggest it was time to try wristspin. Given Kuldeep’s immediate success, Kohli was asked if he would be one to stick with in ODIs.
“A wristspinner is always a bonus, something we have identified now in this series, so all sorts of options are open,” Kohli said. “The 2019 World Cup, we’ve got 15 players here, then we’ve got a pool of 10 or 12 back home who will probably be tested over the next two years, see how they react in pressure situations, and who’s able to make more impact through the middle overs for us, especially with the ball. That’s something we need to look at as a side, to improve upon going ahead, then figure out who the best guys are.”
India’s other top performer in Port of Spain was Ajinkya Rahane, who struck 103 off 104 balls to set them on their way to 310 for 5 in 43 overs. Rahane did not get a game in the Champions Trophy, with India’s first-choice opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma in fine form. However, with Rohit rested for this series, Rahane stepped in and made 50-plus scores in the first two ODIs.
Kohli said Rahane remained India’s preferred back-up opener in limited-overs cricket and offered the team the option of selecting an extra bowler because of his ability to bat in the middle order as well.
“Jinks [Rahane] has great potential at the top of the order, but when Rohit and Shikhar as an opening partnership play well in one-day cricket then that becomes a powerful package for us,” Kohli said. “Jinks is always in there for us as the third opener, and having got the opportunity in this series he has batted really well. Today, the way he paced himself I thought was really, really nice. He was going at a run a ball, never fell behind.
“If he keeps performing like this… he’s someone who has done the middle-order job as well in the past, so he can very well be that floater in the middle order. He’s someone that might allow you to take an extra bowler in a big tournament like a 2019 World Cup. There are very few guys who can open and play in the middle order and Ajinkya is one of them. In future we see him providing more balance to us as a side in terms of taking an extra bowling option maybe on tour.”