On Thursday (July 27), Kuldeep Yadav, the left-arm wrist-spinner, excelled with the ball in the first ODI in Bridgetown, Barbados. Together with Ravindra Jadeja, he took seven of the ten wickets as the West Indies were dismissed for 114 in 23 overs. India won by five wickets to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
After Ravindra Jadeja had taken three wickets and reduced the home team to 97 for six in the 18th over, Kuldeep was introduced into the attack in the 19th. The former was quick to get off the starting line. He removed Dominic Drakes limb before with a googly off his third delivery, and then followed it up by dismissing Yannic Cariah with a similar delivery in his next over. Kuldeep went one step further in his third over by capturing top-scorer Shai Hope and No. 11 Jayden Seales in the same over to end the West Indies innings and conclude with remarkable bowling figures of 4/6 in only three overs that included two maidens.
Kudleep, who was named Player of the Game, attributed his success to the procedure and emphasized the significance of lengths for tweakers.
“I don’t think too much about taking wickets. I focus on the process – where to bowl and what lengths to be targeting. Process is more important than performance,” he said. “Since my return from injury last year, I’ve been trying to consistently bowl the right lengths. Sometimes you get wickets, sometimes you don’t even when you bowl well, but length is very crucial especially for the spinners. When the opposition loses a few wickets, then I try my variations for wickets. Happy with the way I started in the first ODI.”
The 22-yard stretch utilized for the first ODI at the Kensington Oval was not conducive to batting. There was some additional bounce, the seamers were able to get the ball to cut off the deck, and the spinners had some bite. India selected two left-arm spinners who caused the majority of the damage. Even for the Caribbean side, Gudakesh Motie and Yannic Cariah took three wickets between them as the visitors crossed the finish line with 27.1 overs remaining.
“It was a good wicket for the seamers. The fast bowlers bowled really well. When Jadeja was bowling, it was gripping and turning at the same time. When I started from that end, I was getting the drift as well as the turn. In the second innings, you saw the spell from their spinners – they bowled really well. They were getting the turn and the bounce. It was a good wicket for spinners as well,” said Kuldeep.
After restricting their opponents to a low score, India experimented with the bat. Neither Rohit Sharma nor Virat Kohli batted at the top of the order. Ishan Kishan scored a brisk fifty at the top of the order, but no other Indians capitalized on their promotion to bat. In fact, the Indian captain was required to enter the game at number seven and score the winning runs as India cruised to victory with five wickets remaining.
Kuldeep acknowledged that his team could have been more decisive in the pursuit, but he expected India to demonstrate their strength in the next match and clinch the series.
“We could have chased it down with just one or two wickets down. But they bowled really well. The new guy was very good and the left-armer as well. You want to give opportunities to the younger boys, we did that. In the next game, you’ll probably see the full side batting and hopefully we can win the second one and win the series.”
Kuldeep is now a regular member of India’s playing XI in the 50-over format; however, despite excellent performances in other disciplines, he has been in and out of the team. However, the wrist-spinner is undeterred and focuses on the controllable.
“On a lot of occasions, the situation and due to the combination, I have to sit out. It’s pretty normal for me as I’ve been playing international cricket for close to six years. I keep myself relaxed when I’m not playing. When you’re playing, there’s pressure to perform well.”
Every one-day international serves as preparation for the 2023 World Cup, which begins in less than three months. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal could be in a position to compete for a place in the mega-tournament, given the large number of competitors. Both wrist-spinners participated in the 2019 World Cup, which was contested in England, but they were separated after one of their group stage matches against England. Since then, they have only played a few games together, but they continue to celebrate each other’s achievements.
“We (Kuldeep and Chahal) both know the importance of combination. We have a great understanding. He helps me a lot when I’m playing – what to do, what to change. I replicate the same when he plays. That’s why the KulCha pair has been so good over the years. We support and back each other.”