What lies ahead for India's chinaman Kuldeep Yadav?
India's left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav is undergoing a lean patch in international cricket. He has played a handful number of games of late, and got demoted in BCCI's annual contracts 2020/21. The 26-year-old couldn't even find a spot in the Kolkata Knight Riders XI at the IPL 2021. He would want to prove his mettle in the upcoming white-ball leg against Sri Lanka.
Kuldeep hasn't had much exposure to international cricket in recent times. He last featured in the ODI series against against England, having played only two games. Earlier this year, he played in the second Test against England. Before this, his last Test appearance was in January 2019 at the SCG (took a five-for). Kuldeep last played a T20I in January 2020 (vs Sri Lanka).
Kuldeep was the first chinaman to represent the Indian men's team in Test cricket. Although he couldn't cement his place, he has made the most of the limited opportunities. In fact, he took a four-wicket haul on his Test debut (2017) in front of Australia's star-studded batting attack. Till now, he has done reasonably well, taking 26 wickets from seven Tests at 23.84.
Kuldeep Yadav's numbers in white-ball cricket are startling. He owns 105 ODI wickets from 63 games with a best match haul of 6/25. In T20Is, he averages 13.76, having taken 39 wickets. Kuldeep is still the fastest Indian spinner to take 100 ODI wickets, and first-ever Indian to claim two international hat-tricks. His 6/25 remains the best figures by a left-arm spinner in ODIs.
One might wonder why Kuldeep is warming the bench despite making a mark previously. The composition of team is one factor that has contributed to it. In Tests, the presence of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, and now Axar Patel has cut-short his appearances. Meanwhile, the team management gives preference to his compatriot Yuzvendra Chahal in shorter formats as he is quicker through the air.
In IPL 2019, Kuldeep was left in tears as he conceded 27 runs in an over against RCB. The particular incident is believed to have taken a toll on him. Since June 2019, he has taken only 24 international wickets at an average of 48.41. Moreover, he has conceded over 50 runs in each of his last nine ODIs, having scalped nine wickets.
Former Indian captain MS Dhoni is renowned for bringing the best out of players, especially the youngsters. Dhoni, who retired in 2020, played a key role in the development of Kuldeep and Chahal. His instructions from behind the stumps proved invaluable for the duo. "Sometimes I miss that guidance. I played only a handful of games after he left," Kuldeep told The Indian Express.
It is interesting to note that Kuldeep averaged 22.52 in ODIs (91 wickets from 47 matches) in Dhoni's presence. Without him, he averages 62.85 in the format (14 wickets from 16 matches). Kuldeep's overall average of 20.85 (with Dhoni) dips to 30.53 sans him.
Kuldeep isn't be a part of the Team India squad that will tour UK for the WTC final and England Test series. However, he still has a chance to silence the critics by doing well in Lanka. It remains to be seen whether he gets the desired chances to deliver. The exploits of Kuldeep might resurrect as he averages 19.13 across formats against SL.