Kuldeep Yadav was India’s surprise package when he made his debut in June 2017. Exactly two years down the line, in June 2019, the ‘Chinaman‘ is expected to be an integral part of India’s World Cup campaign in England and Wales. The surprise element may have worn off thanks to his exploits over the past two years but he is one of the biggest weapons India possess going into the tournament, according to former Australian cricketer and current Kolkata Knight Riders assistant coach Simon Katich.
His role with the Indian Premier League side meant Katich has had a front-row view of how Kuldeep operates. “He is bowling beautifully and is a master of deception. I think he will be a big weapon for India in the upcoming World Cup in England. Because of his variety and the ability to take wickets in the middle overs. makes his special. He also has the rare ability to stem the flow of runs and take wickets in a phase (mid-overs) where most bowlers find it difficult,” Katich told indianexpress.com.
Kuldeep’s transition began in the last calendar year in which he picked 45 wickets in 19 ODIs at a staggering average of 17.78 and an equally impressive strike rate of 22.98. His remarkable spell of 6/25 during India’s three-match tour of England in 2018 propelled him to the top of the wicket-takers list (18) in the series. The 24-year-old also boasted an average of 16.44, the best among all bowlers in the series.
But does Kuldeep’s dry spell in this IPL season (3 wickets in 7 matches) ring alarm bells? Especially when his numbers from last year, reveal that the southpaw had picked up as many 17 wickets in 16 games.
“See he has been outstanding in terms of what he has delivered this season for KKR,” explained Katich. “Whilst he hasn’t got as many wickets that he would have liked, he is playing a role for the team in terms of shutting down the middle overs for opposition teams. So in that way, he is contributing to the team.”
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Kuldeep Yadav picked 17 wickets in 16 matches in IPL 2018. (Source: BCCI)
On April 15, India will announce its 15-man World Cup squad and Kuldeep is likely to board the flight. With that in mind, will the franchise decide to give him some rest? “He is only a youngster and so I would like to think he is fresh with plenty of energy in his tank,” Katich responded.
“If he is feeling the pinch then we will take that into account (especially with the World Cup around the corner). But so far he seems fine and he loves to bowl. So he will play a big role for us,” he explained.
Meanwhile, KKR have had to come across a few rough outings in their last two matches. Prior to the defeat against Delhi Capitals, they succumbed to a bitter loss in Chennai where the turning pitch halted their winning momentum. According to Katich, one reason for their defeat was the lack of adaptability to the conditions. “We need to assess conditions more quickly but I am sure we will get back to winning ways,” he said.
Pitches across the country have become a hot topic of debate during the IPL. But the 38-year-old considers the Knight Riders fortunate in this matter. “We have been blessed so far and the surfaces that we have played upon have been good. The pitch in Chennai was the hardest one. But the rest have been high scoring games in Delhi, Jaipur,” Katich remarked.
But be it the slow rank turner in Chennai or the truer Eden Gardens, if there is one man who has been a centrifugal force behind KKR’s success it is the power of Andre Russell. With more than 300 runs he has been a key contributor in KKR’s three wins out of four. But injuries have hampered his progress. After suffering a shoulder injury, Russell jarred his wrist in Chennai but continues to play for KKR. A pertinent question that arises here is whether the franchise is overdependent on Russell power?
“No doubt he is a hard person to replace in case he gets injured. We have found that in the past,” admitted Katich before adding, “That’s why we have someone like Carlos Braithwaite in the squad. He fits into the allrounder. Carlos is a like for like replacement,” he stressed.
Another area of concern for KKR is the lack of wickets. In seven matches only once have KKR’s bowlers been able to dismiss more than five opposition batsmen. This inability to go through the opposition batting order is always a worry admits Katich.
“It’s always a concern when you are not taking wickets because it might not hurt you at first ten overs but certainly does in the back ten when the team is one or two down and thereby have the luxury to play really aggressively knowing they have plenty batting to come. It’s something that we have to address throughout the tournament,” he concluded.