Left arm twisting is a rare art, and a gifted Indian exponent practicing this art is an attractive sight on the cricket pitch. The arrival of Kuldeep Yadav adds another exciting chapter to India’s rich spin bowling heritage, one that reaffirms the aesthetic appeal of wrist spin. Such considerations are worthless in the unforgiving world of the Indian Premier League if they are not backed by consistent performances, so his brief phase of excellence so far at a new club – he has taken 13 wickets in six appearances for Delhi Capitals – after a frustrating stint with Kolkata Knight Riders indeed warms the heart.
The highlight of his bowling to date has been the four-wicket spell against his previous team. He was hit a few times, but took Shreyas Iyer’s prized wicket with a nice follow-up throw to a wicket that had been hit with a disdainful blow to a six. In his last over, he took three more to further cripple the Knight Riders’ pursuit – Pat Cummins was stuck lbw with a quick delivery that was thrown completely onto a leg stump line, Sunil Narine was caught deep in extra cover as he tried to hit out, and Umesh Yadav tried hard to slog. After the ball shot up from Umesh’s bat, Kuldeep ran a long way to chase the ball, keeping an eye on it and ducking forward with full force to complete the catch, a sign that he may have been a little hungrier for success in this game, he had a point to prove against his former employer.
IPL 2022: Team management support has worked wonders for Kuldeep, says Axar Patel
Kuldeep said during the post-match briefing that he had been working on his ‘rhythm’ and was enjoying his bowling. He varied his lengths well and also the tempo of the ball to fox the batters. The team supported him. That may have contributed to his confidence as well. There was also a discernible increase in the average pace of its deliveries to adapt to the demands of T20s.
But was everything okay with his bowling? Former Native American left-arm spinner Maninder Singh sees a major technical foul in his bowling action that he believes should be rectified quickly.
“If you see his forearm, it falls very quickly,” says Maninder sports star†
“The Bowlers forearm is the driver; if that arm falls that fast, there isn’t enough life in the ball. Whenever he is hit, he loses his confidence. He needs to work on that technical foul.
“What he’s doing now is he’s trying to bowl a little faster through the air. But if the technical error is fixed, he won’t have to put in as much effort as he does now. The good thing is, the way he bowls so far, whatever I’ve seen in the season, it looks like he’s worked hard. Once you’ve tasted the admiration and playing at the highest level then you have to play Ranji Trophy and first-class cricket – you don’t enjoy that much as nothing compares to the admiration you get when you play for the country. He has worked hard, but I still have the feeling that if that technical error is corrected, he still has a long time to go,” explains Maninder.
Need for speed
Kapil Pandey, Kuldeep’s personal coach, says he has made some minor changes to his bowling. Working out what the bowler means when he says “rhythm achha aa raha hai (the rhythm is well put together)”, explains Pandey: “He is referring to the run-up. If the start is good, the rest will follow. When he started his career, his bowling was geared to the demands of one-day cricket and test cricket. In T20s, batters started playing him well and understood his bowling. So now he has increased the speed of his run. And that has increased the tempo of the ball. He also varies his pace: sometimes in the 80s, sometimes in the 90s and sometimes 100 (km/h). That presents the batters with a few problems.
“Another change in his bowling is that he tries to bowl fewer short balls. He throws a short ball every now and then, but he’s learned it’s better if they are minimized. Our aim is to bowl fuller (sic). He bowls the chinaman and the googly like he used to. But the big difference is the speed. He didn’t get too many chances for the Knight Riders and he was told he bowled too slowly.”
Former Native American left-arm spinner Maninder Singh sees a major technical foul in his bowling action that he believes should be rectified quickly. – AP
The classic leg-spin bowler that he is, ramping up the pace of his deliveries and making the bowling flatter through the air, may give the impression to some that he’s trying to be the bowler he’s not. In contrast, in first-class cricket, there is more freedom to let the ball fly to cast intricate webs over long periods of time. But Maninder feels more speed is needed, even in the longer formats of cricket.
“Also in Test cricket he will have to bowl a little faster than what he was bowling, which made it difficult for him. Because that life on the ball is very important, and when I say “fix the technical foul” he doesn’t have to bowl faster, he automatically gets those turns it takes to beat the batsman. But if he can’t clear the technical foul, I think he’ll have to bowl a little faster than he bowled,” Maninder says.
He illustrates his point: “Fixing the technical fault is like wheel alignment because if the weight is less on one side you don’t enjoy the drive, and if the alignment is fixed the car runs very smooth. That way you enjoy it more. If there is a problem with the wheel alignment, adjust it with the handlebars. But if the wheel alignment is correct, all you need to do is touch the steering wheel and you can drive the car. The same goes for bowling. If the forearm gets stuck, everything goes by itself. Even if he gets hit, he still won’t lack confidence. But with his action, the technical foul he has, the day he gets hit, his confidence will diminish, and then it will take some time for confidence to return.”
Only those players with enormous reserves of mental strength excel despite technical defects, says Maninder. Bowling with this technical foul amounts to bowling with extra pressure on his right shoulder for Kuldeep. †career kahin shorten na ho jaye (I hope his career is not cut short)† he warns† “Kyunki aise hone mein injuries hone ke opportunities badh jate hain (Because it increases the risk of injury)††
Kuldeep has a lot in store for him. According to Pandey, he has changed the ‘culture’ in the Indian spinning department as his colleagues are now giving more spin to their deliveries. Of course he has a smart bowling brain, an appetite for hard work and success, and ambition. And at 27, he has age on his side.
Maninder concludes: “Once he has his forearm under control, he will be a champion again.”