Express press service
CHENNAI: Kuldeep Yadav had a wide smile on his face. There was discernible purpose in the way he walked, his celebrations looked like a man enjoying life, like a raging golden retriever running his evening run in the neighborhood park.
By the time he was done with his four overs quota – the first time he had played in the Indian Premier League since September 2020 – the Mumbai Indians had been tied. A confident start (53/0 from six overs) had given way to confusion in the middle overs (123/4 after 16) thanks in large part to wrist-spinner trickery on a surface tailor-made for trust on the rebound and hitting across the line, aka good wicket at bat. His 3/18 (eight points, zero limits) allowed Rishabh Pant to control the flow of runs after the initial onslaught. That Kuldeep also managed to tie up Ishan Kishan, who finished with an undefeated 81 out of 48, was proof of the work he was doing behind the scenes. He admitted it after the innings.
“Very happy,” he told the host broadcaster. “I spoke to Ricky (Ponting, Delhi Capitals coach) about the length of the ball in the T20s. I did the same with Rohit (Sharma) with the Indian team. It depended on the pace. The wicket was good and it didn’t help me. The length has to be good so the batters don’t have time to hit. I varied my length and pace.
For his magnificent show with the ball, Kuldeep Yadav is the player of the match
– IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) March 27, 2022
When there is nothing in the strip for the spinners, these become great weapons for the spinners. A confident spinner relies on these subtle variations—changes of pace, use of the crease, and variation in length—to outplay hitters. On Sunday at Brabourne Stadium, the tweaker showed his range by picking at least two of his three wickets. For Rohit Sharma, he didn’t push, asking the fly-half to manufacture energy to clear the pitch, which he failed. Against Anmolpreet Singh, it was full with a lot of air. The batter accepted the invite but couldn’t punt for long. Kieron Pollard will be disappointed with the way he fell as it was almost a long jump but you make your own luck in the sport and Kuldeep was late.
It’s fair to say that Kuldeep had lost a bit of that confidence, that self-confidence lately. In 2020, he played five IPL matches (12 overs, one wicket). In 2021, he warmed up off the bench in the Indian game before being ruled out of the Emirati game with a knee injury. Even though he played for the national team during this phase, the returns were not very satisfactory. Six wickets in eight games (five ODIs and three T20Is) revealed their own story.
During the West Indies series earlier this year, Rohit hinted that an in-form Kuldeep would be very much in his plans. Even if we didn’t trust him that much, this team management wouldn’t hesitate to rekindle an old alliance (Kuldeep with Yuzvendra Chahal). More games like Sunday will only accelerate this feeling.
Kuldeep 3/18 also had the intended effect as a total of 177 was slightly undercooked on a good surface. And that turned out to be the case when Delhi returned home with 10 balls to spare.
Brief notes: Mumbai Indians 177/5 in 20 ovs (Ishan 81 no, Rohit 41, Kuldeep 3/18) lost to Delhi Capitals 179/6 in 18.2 ovs (Lalit 48 no, Axar 38 no, Thampi 3/35).