ICC World Cup: Kuldeep Yadav’s rendezvous on home turf
The Ekana wicket, which plays slow and low, can also be an ally for the left-arm wrist spinner — which promises to make the India vs England match a memorable affair
A key sub plot to the highly billed India vs England match in Lucknow on Sunday, 29 October, has to be the homecoming of sorts for Kuldeep Yadav.
And the wicket at the new Ekana Stadium, which has acquired the reputation of playing slow and low, can be an ally for the left-arm wrist spinner, making it a memorable affair.
In a way, Kuldeep Yadav has been extraordinarily fortunate for an Uttar Pradesh player.
His state has produced several World Cup-winning team members like Suresh Raina and Piyush Chawla (2011), as well as R.P. Singh (2007 World T20), but none could enjoy the sense of occasion from playing a World Cup match at home.
Born in Kanpur, located 85 kilometres away from the capital city of Lucknow, Kuldeep learnt the ropes at childhood coach Kapil Dev Pandey’s academy at the Rovers ground.
However, with Green Park in Kanpur being out of the reckoning to host international matches, an impressive list of international players from the state — from Mohammad Kaif to Bhuvneshwar Kumar — have missed the joy of playing on home ground.
‘’It’s a big moment for him — but more importantly, we would like India to carry on with the winning momentum. Kuldeep has really worked hard for a moment like this,’’ Pandey said, when contacted by National Herald.
‘’He used to spend hours bowling at the nets at my camp here after the surgey — and I tried to help him in whatever way I could," said Pandey, adding, "However, over the past year, we have not discussed his bowling at all — because he is in prime form! Hopefully, he can play his part in helping India regain the trophy at home.’’
After five matches, Yadav is on eight wickets (the only Indian bowler to feature in the top-10 is Jasprit Bumrah, with 11 wickets). In the last game against New Zealand, on a somewhat unresponsive wicket in Dharamsala, he had come in for the stick — but it could be a different story on Sunday, 29 October, against England.
There are also media reports of the Indian team management trying to clip off the grass from the Lucknow pitch too, prompting speculation that Ravi Ashwin might be making a comeback into the playing XI.
Does that make Kuldeep Yadav's chances iffy? Maybe not.
Let's consider Yadav's performance at the Ekana so far.
In the only ODI, he has played there so far — against South Africa in October last year — the Chinaman bowler finished with 1/39.
At the best of times, an India–England game is meant to be a high stakes one. It is more so when part of a 50-overs World Cup tournament. In the 2019 edition, Eoin Morgan’s team was the only one to have beaten India in the league stages, but it has been a different story this time around.
Completely bereft of confidence, England let go of possibly their last chance for a bounce-back like Australia when they collapsed against Sri Lanka.
Which all goes to say, this could be Kuldeep Yadav’s moment to seize the day at home.
Catch the match: India vs England
Venue: Ekana Stadium, Lucknow
Date: 29 October, Sunday
From: 2 pm IST