It has been an up and down Indian Premier League (IPL) season for the new-look Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) team. Out of their 13 completed games so far, the ‘Purple Army’ has managed to win only seven. And because of this patchy performance, their place in the playoffs is still not secured as we enter the business end of this eleventh edition of the IPL.

Over the years, KKR have been renowned as an excellent bowling unit. But in this ongoing season, despite having enough firepower, bowling has been a disappointment for the Kolkata-based side. And amongst all the bowlers, Kuldeep Yadav has had a dismal outing, at least till the start of the last fixture against Rajasthan Royals.

Following the heroics in international cricket of late, the left-arm chinaman spinner came into this 11th edition of the IPL with a lot of hype surrounding him. When KKR commenced their campaign at the start of the season, the wrist-spinner was considered as his team's’ prime wicket-taking option, ahead of their long-trusted performer Sunil Narine.

However, as the season unfolded, Kuldeep, as a bowler started to look like a fish out of the water. He hardly had any rhythm and wasn’t being able to adapt to different types of pitches across the country. There were freebies on offer and soon teams started to target his spells. The 23-year old was literally taken apart by the batsmen.

Getting breakthroughs in the middle overs is Kuldeep’s specialty, but for the most part of this IPL, he just bowled for survival, so much so that skipper Dinesh Karthik had to hide him on the field at times. Part-timers and other bowlers completed his quota. In fact, prior to Tuesday’s (May 15) fixture against the Royals, he had only nine scalps in 12 games, at an average of 35.11 and an economy rate of 8.94.

However, much to the relief of his admirers, finally he showed his magic with a charismatic spell of 4 for 20 in almost a do or die fixture against the Royals in the last outing at the Eden Gardens — the same ground where he has an international hat-trick to his name. His team was in a spot of bother when Kuldeep was introduced into the attack. But the Kanpur boy single-handedly broke the backbone of Royals batting by dismissing Ajinkya Rahane, in-form and dangerous looking Jos Buttler, Stuart Binny and Ben Stokes in back to back overs of his spell.

It was a kind spell, which the country expects from Kuldeep. Most importantly, on Tuesday, he decided to go back to basic. For the most part of his spell, Kuldeep bowled it slower and giving the ball air, which deceived the batsmen. And wicket of Rahane in the second ball of his first over, lifted his spirits. The confidence was back in his strides, so did his control. That’s the Kuldeep we know.

Meanwhile, not only for KKR in the reminder of this IPL, Kuldeep is an important member of the Indian team and with the international season starting next month, his form carries a lot of significance. The 23-year old has been selected in India’s squad for the Afghanistan Test match in Bengaluru, which will be played from June 14 to 18. I believe, if Kuldeep can finish the IPL on a high note, then there are genuine chances of him getting selected in the playing XI ahead of out of form Ravindra Jadeja.

Furthermore, following the one-off Afghanistan Test, the Indian team will head to the United Kingdom for a full series of five T20 Internationals (two in Ireland), three One-Day Internationals and most importantly a five-match Test series. And on those English pitches, Kuldeep unorthodox wrist-spin will be a vital asset to the team management. Also, let’s not forget that right after the tour of England, the Indian team will feature in the Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

Henceforth, a lot is at stake in how the youngster shapes up in the next three-four months. Perhaps, this is the make or break phase of Kuldeep career.