ICC World Cup: Kuldeep effect rubbing off on young UP bowlers, says childhood coach
High after their win against Pakistan in Ahmedabad, the men in blue face Bangladesh on Thursday, with Kuldeep Yadav very much in the thick of things
The magic of Kuldeep Yadav, who is being seen as the X-factor in India’s campaign in this 50-over World Cup, has earned him admirers across the border too. While Jasprit Bumrah leads the early wicket takers’ race jointly with eight wickets, the left-arm wrist spinner (five wickets from three) has established himself as a lethal weapon.
As India’s cricket caravan moves to the relatively cooler climes of Pune, it’s difficult to see Bangladesh stopping them in what would be the fourth league match for both. The Bangla Tigers did spoil their party in the past (2007) and won a dead rubber against India in the recent Asia Cup, but it counts for little in the current context.
Given the way Pakistan batsmen were left guessing against an in-form Kuldeep, former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif stuck his neck out in a signed column on Monday to say the chinaman bowler will emerge as the highest wicket taker of the World Cup.
The way Kuldeep bamboozled Saud Shakeel and Iftikhar Ahmed for two of his wickets prompted Latif to say: ‘’The Pakistan batters failed to read Kuldeep completely and were just biding time to finish his quota of overs. If their management do not think of resting him for any game, he should finish with the most wickets.’’
A big complement this, though one must admit that Latif was not the first former Pakistan stalwart to praise Kuldeep. Intikihab Alam, the legendary leg spinner and former captain who has donned many a hat for Pakistan cricket, unequivocally called him the "best spinner" in the fray before the World Cup even began.
Leave alone finishing the tournament on a high, if anyone had told Kuldeep two years back that he could be leading the Indian spin attack in the 2023 World Cup at home, the Uttar Pradesh cricketer would have possibly laughed it off. The two years of the pandemic had given him hell as he was a permanent fixture in the Kolkata Knight Riders dugout in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and had to return midway from IPL 2021 in the UAE for a knee surgery.
The tide began turning since he switched camp to Delhi Capitals for the first of the 10-team IPL in 2022, but a lot of thinking and hard work went into it. Reflecting on this journey, Kuldeep's childhood coach has been full of praise for his erstwhile ward.
Speaking to National Herald over phone, Kapil Dev Pandey — under whom Kuldeep took his first steps in the game at Pandey's academy in Kanpur — said: ‘’It’s purely mental strength and willingness to work hard which has given him back his place. He decided to straighten his run-up a bit so that he can have a clearer vision of the batter and worked on his length and rotational speed on the ball. He delivers the ball at a quicker pace now, which makes it very difficult to score off him.’’
Reflecting on those early days, Pandey said: ‘’When Kuldeep started around 2004, I projected Shane Warne as a role model before him as there were no chinaman bowlers in India. Now in UP alone, at least 50 boys are trying to emulate Kuldeep, with some who started as left-arm orthodox bowlers even wanting to switch to wrist spin. I tell them it’s a lot of hard work.’’
After the opening match against Australia, where Kuldeep took two for 42, his haul in ODIs in 2023 shows 35 wickets from 17 matches at an economy rate of 4.68, the best by any Indian bowler. His current form and confidence level have made him a sureshot starter in the 15-member squad, and he has vindicated the team management's faith so far.
How often does he catch up with his famous protégé since the emergence of Kuldeep 2.0? ‘’He used to spend hours bowilng at the nets in my camp here at Rovers ground in JK Colony after the surgery — and I tried to help him in whatever way I could. However, over the past year, we have not discussed his bowling at all as he is at his prime. Hopefully, he can play his part in helping India regain the trophy at home,’’ Pandey said.
India vs Bangladesh
MCA Stadium, Pune
Match starts from 2.00 pm IST