“Even after I stop playing cricket, I will remember this night for having taken five wickets against Pakistan,” said a chuffed Kuldeep Yadav after weaving his magic around the Pakistan batters on Monday night.
Over the last 18 months, Kuldeep has unveiled a new avatar. Kuldeep 2.0 has been attacking the stumps more, with minor technical adjustments, and this has resulted in his emerging as India’s premier spinner in limited overs cricket.
Straightening the run-up, ensuring the bowling hand moves towards the batter in the follow-through rather than falling away, and then ensuring it does not compromise his “drift and turn” — his key weapons — has worked wonders for Kuldep.
But in modern-day cricket, with no off-season available to work on technique, Kuldeep felt that the five-month injury layoff starting in the latter half of 2021 turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“It has not happened overnight. It took me some time to get it right. Many people had suggested this change and I also never wanted to lose my zip, nip and drift. When I completed my rehab of three months, I realised that I must work on it,” Kuldeep said on Monday night.
After twisting his right knee badly during a training session during the Indian Premier League in UAE in September 2021, Kuldeep underwent a surgery that ruled him out for five months.
Kuldeep said that Ashish Kaushik, then physiotherapist at the National Cricket Academy, advised him against “putting too much load on the knee”.
“Keeping that in mind, I tried to bowl faster. I tried it in a practice match in Kanpur and the batsmen found it difficult to pick. But getting the rhythm back was an issue. I struggled in IPL (2022) but finally got it back after six-seven months.”
Since the end of the last year, Kuldeep has hardly put any foot wrong, especially in India’s Blues.
Having emerged as India’s highest wicket-taker in 2023, Kuldeep will be expected to end the year on a high over the next two months.
If he succeeds, he will create more lifetime memories to be cherished over the years.