THE RISE OF KNIGHT, KULDEEP YADAV
India has a rich history when we talk about spinners. Right from the spin quartet of the 1960s and 1970s (Prasanna, Venkataraghavan, Chandrashekhar and Bishen Singh Bedi) to the current spinning duo of Ashwin and Jadeja, Indian spinners have been effective and bowled match-winning spells. India has had a lot of variety with off-spinners, leg-spinners, left-arm orthodox in the attack but never had a chinaman bowler before. With the addition of Kuldeep Yadav in the fourth Test against Australia at Dharamsala in March, India found its first!
The Uttar Pradesh lad had no plans of becoming a spin bowler though but was pushed by his coach to take up the rare skill. Talking more about Kuldeep, we had successfully bid for him in the 2014 IPL Auction. Later in the same year, he performed exceptionally well in the Under-19 World Cup and attracted many eyeballs. In that tournament, he picked up 14 wickets at an average of 16.42 which included a hat-trick (vs Scotland) as well.
But with spinners like Sunil Narine, Shakib Al Hasan and Piyush Chawla already in the KKR setup, Kuldeep found it difficult to be a part of the starting XI. He gained a lot of exposure by being a part of the squad though. In the 2014 Champions League, he got the opportunity to prove his worth and the youngster grabbed it with both hands. He picked up 6 wickets in 5 matches with an impressive economy of just 7.50.
Kuldeep has learnt a lot during his time at KKR. Brad Hogg, who joined in 2015, helped bring more variety into Kuldeep's game. The vital inputs reaped benefits as he continued to do well in the domestic circuit. Being a chainmen bowler himself, the veteran guided him with bowling flippers, the faster ones and wrong'uns.
With every passing day, Kuldeep became a clever bowler and it started reflecting on his overall game. After a great 2016-17 Ranji Trophy season, where he achieved the unique double of being the highest run getter - 466 at an average of 35.84 and highest wicket taker - 35 in 8 matches for Uttar Pradesh, he earned his maiden call-up for the one-off Test against Bangladesh in February. Kuldeep’s hard work paid off as he was part of the eleven in the series-decider fourth Test against Australia in Dharamsala. The debutant bamboozled the Australian side in the first innings as they failed to pick his variations. His figures of 4/91 in the first innings included big names like David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb.
After having a grand international debut, Kuldeep did not disappoint in this season of VIVO IPL. While his overall tally of 12 scalps from 11 games may not seem a lot, Kuldeep put in a couple of game-changing performances against Sunrisers Hyderabad at Kolkata (1/23, dismissed Warner) and Rising Pune Supergiant at Pune where he outfoxed a batsman of the pedigree of MS Dhoni (2/31).
Having narrowly missed out on selection for the recently concluded ICC Champions Trophy, Kuldeep will now get a chance to continue the impressive show during the 5 ODIs and solitary T20 against West Indies in the Caribbean.
The whole KKR fraternity is proud of his progress and we wish him the best!