New Delhi: With pacers dominating the scenes in all the three Test matches between India and South Africa in the Rainbow Nation, the pattern wasn’t expected to unfold any differently in the limited-overs series. But spin duo Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal had other ideas. While Kuldeep finished with 17 wickets from 6 ODIs, Chahal picked as many wickets from 6 ODIs and 2 T20Is. A finger injury sustained during the 6th ODI ensured that Kuldeep was rested for the T20Is.
While Kuldeep is still around 10 days away from regaining full fitness, the chinaman bowler is already thinking about his next tournament — the IPL. But before the IPL, one must talk about unprecedented success that Kuldeep achieved in South Africa. The exuberance of youth is clearly evident in his voice as the reporter gets him to decode the secret of his achievement. Without making any bones, Kuldeep says he can’t thank his stars enough to have two stalwarts in skipper Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni as teammates.
Speaking to CricketNext, Kuldeep says while skipper Kohli plans it all — from field settings to the style of attack against each opposition batsman — former skipper Dhoni ensures that the bowlers implement all of it. Kuldeep doesn’t mind calling Dhoni the general of Kohli’s army.
“What we have achieved in South Africa has a lot to do with the way Kohli bhai and Dhoni bhai guide us in the middle. While you can all hear Dhoni bhai constantly guiding us on the stump microphone, it is Kohli bhai who actually plans it all. It is a complete work of two individuals who are brilliant when it comes to first planning and then implementing the plans.
“Credit has been given to us (Kuldeep and Chahal) for taking India home in the limited-overs series, but we couldn’t have been half as effective had it not been for the two senior pros guiding us. You need a skipper who backs you and believes in your ability to shine on the big stage. You think we could have been so successful if Kohli bhai had not given us the freedom to attack? I don’t think so,” he said.
Asked to talk about the thought going in his mind when he was handed the ball in the first ODI — the spin duo picked five wickets in the game — in Durban, Kuldeep is nonchalant as he says that looking at the wicket isn’t his way to go into a game.
“My role is to attack and also abide by the directions given by the skipper. I don’t really give the wicket much importance. I am an attacking bowler and I believe that if I can do my job, the wickets will come. Chahal telling me in Durban that the wicket had sharp turn gave me further confidence.
“In fact, I must admit that when I reached South Africa — during the third Test at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg — the mood in the camp was already upbeat. We had the upper-hand in the game and after coming so close in the first two games, it was for the first time that the result was also turning in our favour and that win set things up for the rest of the series.
“But yes, we did need to focus all over again and try and make inroads at the start of the ODIs. Keeping the winning momentum was very important for us as a team and that is what helped us because had we not won the first two ODIs, the Proteas would have come back strongly and the series could have ended in a much different manner,” he confessed.
While pundits were a bit surprised that Kuldeep didn’t find a place in the Test team, the chinaman bowler says that there was no place for a third spinner in the ranks after R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja on foreign soil.
“Yes, I would be lying if I say that I didn’t feel disappointed to miss the bus, but then, that is a part of every sportsperson’s journey. You also need to realise that the team already had two master-class spinners in Ashwin bhai and Jaddu (Jadeja) bhai. So, I went to South Africa with a clear mind and looking to make the most of the opportunities that I would get. To be fair, I didn’t think that we (Chahal and him) would get the kind of purchase that we did. I enjoyed bowling on those wickets and I think the numbers speak for themselves. I only looked at expressing myself in the middle,” he revealed.
Done with the tour of South Africa, the next challenge is England and Kuldeep feels the team will do well even there under the leadership of Kohli. “Kohli bhai leads by example. His aggression rubs off on all of us and that is why this team has the ‘never-say-die’ attitude. I am confident that we as a team will produce another good performance there. But before that, I am looking forward to bowling against Kohli bhai and Mahi bhai in the IPL,” he signed off with a smile.