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Will Bangladesh Tests Help Ever-improving Kuldeep Yadav Resurrect His International Career?

“What Kuldeep possesses is an art which isn’t an easy one. You need to have patience with people like him,” says former India wicketkeeper-batter Vijay Dahiya about the left-arm spinner, just like an aesthete describing a masterpiece. Something which is very rare and when you see it, you wish just to behold it.

Such is Kuldeep Yadav’s bowling; always been a treat to watch, especially for people who have a liking for spin bowling. He is only five years old in international cricket, but the list of his admirers is longer than his career.

Even the late Shane Warne, the legend from Australia, ‘loved watching Kuldeep bowl’. But it’s a mere irony that despite being a great artist, he often finds himself struggling for opportunities.

Despite making an impactful debut against Australia in 2017, he got to play only six more Test matches in the following four years. He bagged a five-wicket haul in Sydney in 2019, when India registered their first-ever Test series win Down Under. A couple of years later when the team returned to Australian shores to defend the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, every single player in the squad got a game except Kuldeep.

Similar has been the case with him in the ODIs. Someone who has a couple of hat-tricks to his credit is toiling hard to cement his place again in the dressing room. When he joins hands with Yuzvendra Chahal, the opposition has its worst nightmare. But now, the circumstances are such that they hardly get named in the squad together.

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But every missed opportunity made him put his nose to the grindstone which eventually reflected in the games he played. Whenever he was back in the team, he appeared a tad stronger, both physically and mentally.

In an exclusive chat with News18 Cricketnext, Dahiya said when a cricketer doesn’t live up to the expectations, he gets succeeded by others who were already in the queue. And if the mindset is positive, such setbacks provide an individual with mental strength.

“What happens as a youngster when you get opportunity early on and what is expected of you that doesn’t happen, then you have to wait for your time because there are other people who are in the line. So, everyone will get the opportunity and then your time will come. But one thing that I can say for sure is that be it a break or being dropped from the Indian side and spending time at NCA, or playing for his state, and playing for India A and all those things will definitely make him [Kuldeep] mentally stronger,” he told Cricketnext.

Well, the mental strength which Dahiya spoke about was abundantly visible in Kuldeep’s return for the Bangladesh Tests. He was back in the mix after 22 months and certainly showed a glimpse of what the team was missing thus far.

A 40-run cameo with the bat in hand to power India beyond the 400-mark followed by career-best bowling figures – 5 for 40 in 16 overs – in the longest format of the game, Kuldeep was simply on a roll. The first innings figures that he registered are the best by an Indian spinner in Bangladesh – better than that of Ravichandran Ashwin and Anil Kumble.

It’s all about showing faith in a player who is a proven wicket-taker. Probably the gang of Rahuls – KL & Dravid – decided to take the chance and were handsomely rewarded. Kuldeep took three wickets in the second innings to finish with career-best match figures of 8/113.

Prior to the Bangladesh Test when the leg-spinner’s inclusion wasn’t official, Dahiya asserted that people like Kuldeep require to be dealt with patience. And probably that ‘never give up attitude’ is bringing the best out of him every day as the left-armer is bowling much better now.

“People like Kuldeep need a lot of backing from the captain as well. The captain’s confidence needs to be shown in you is another important aspect as far as any spinner for that matter is concerned,” Dahiya had said.

“Further, if you ask me, I think he is a much better bowler than he was. He has added variation to his bowling like pace off the wicket which is much better. Earlier, a lot of people were saying that he was beating batsmen regularly in the air but off the pitch, he was not that fast, but he has added that bit to his game as well. So, his time will come, I am very hopeful, and I am very excited about him being part of this team,” he added.

And now when Kuldeep is a part of this Indian team, bowling coach Paras Mhambrey is all praise for the 28-year-old cricketer from Uttar Pradesh. Addressing a press conference after the stumps on day 4, Mhambrey highlighted the slight change in Kuldeep’s bowling tactics.

“He’s put in a lot of work, prior to this people were discussing the speeds he was bowling at when people felt he was a little slower in the air. But credit goes to him, he’s worked on that. The slight changes that he’s made, he’s worked on the angles of his run-up he bowls right now, that allows him to bowl quicker in the air,” Mhambrey said.

Injury concerns, lack of confidence, increasing competition and what not; Kuldeep has seen everything that a cricketer never wishes for, that too, in such a short span. But once these hurdles have been crossed, the way ahead is always smoother.

After all, an artist is not paid for his labour but for his vision.

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