South Africa Test - Opportunity for Kuldeep Yadav
SA test is an opportunity for Yadav to regain T20I spot
The Test series against South Africa presents an opportunity for Kuldeep Yadav, a confident player, to bowl tons of overs in conditions tailor-made for spin and make a comeback in the T20I setup.
Given that Indian pitches will be dry and South African batting has traditionally been weak against tweakers - it will be a tempting option for Team India to include an extra spinner, especially now that Jasprit Bumrah is injured.
Kuldeep has a brilliant Test record of 24 wickets from six matches at an average of 24.1. Sure, the economy rate of 3.51 can be improved but wrist spin is an attacking option, and as such it is understandable that he goes for more runs than your conventional finger spinner.
In the six Tests that he has featured in till now, he’s played thrice as the third spinner, twice at the cost of Ravindra Jadeja and only once ahead of Ashwin after the latter was injured. It can be just what the doctor ordered for Kuldeep Yadav who can now get an extended run in Test cricket - something that couldn't have been possible if not for the injury to Bumrah. This will help him gain the much-required rhythm which he has lost after a below-par IPL 2019 and ODI World Cup.
An eye on the T20 World Cup
As Kuldeep has played more cricket, it has become quite evident that he is a confident player. This is why despite not being in the best form, the Indian management backed him quite deep into the World Cup because they knew that if he clicks, he is an absolute match-winner. Despite the team being in experiment mode, Kuldeep, by no means, is out of contention of the T20 World Cup to be held in Australia and he knows it.
"I am not worried about not being picked for the last two T20I series. Maybe the selectors felt I needed a break. Maybe the team thinks some changes are required. I respect that, and I have no complaints. I see this as an opportunity to do well in Tests."
On big Australian grounds, Kuldeep can be a threat with his variations. Moreover, his slow speed through the air will make it very difficult for batsmen to clear big boundaries.
The second match at Lord's on India's recent Test tour to England in a game that turned out to be a nightmare for the spinner, with conditions overcast and the ball not griping the surface at all. More so, he had to adjust to the shape of the Dukes ball. The England batting - having played against him in the T20Is and one-days - were adept at handling his bowling trajectory and variations.
This, Kuldeep agrees, turned out to be a learning curve for him. He worked on his bowling speed and pitching areas and reaped rewards in the tour of Australia.
"Already! He plays overseas Test cricket and he gets five wickets, so he becomes our primary overseas spinner. Going ahead, if we have to play one spinner, he is the one we will pick,” head coach Ravi Shastri said after Kuldeep picked up a five-wicket haul in the Sydney Test against Australia.
Permutations and combinations of the Indian Test XI
In recent times, India have gone in with five bowling options in home conditions. However, the team has had a long overseas Test cycle in which they have repeatedly opted for six specialist batsmen, along with wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant at No. 7.
With Hanuma Vihari emerging as India's highest run-scorer on the tour of West Indies, it will be a very tough call to drop him. In case India decide to go with an extra spinner at the cost of a batsman, it will be happy days for Kuldeep Yadav who can get an extended run in Test cricket, that too in home conditions.
Hence, Bumrah's injury can be a blessing in disguise for Kuldeep. He must now bowl as many overs as possible in the South Africa Test series if presented with an opportunity. And, as any international cricketer would tell you, bowling in match situations takes precedence over bowling in the nets.