After a disappointing tour of the West Indies, Amit Mishra must have been relieved when the Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) picked him in the 15-member squad for the three-match Test series against New Zealand.
The 33-year-old leg-spinner took only six wickets in two matches he played in the Caribbean. In the same two Tests, compatriot Ravichandran Ashwin had finished with 13 wickets. However, with 13 Test matches coming up at home and young chinaman spinner Kuldeep Yadav running riot in the domestic circuit, Mishra knows he’s living on the edge.
Yadav ended the Duleep Trophy as the highest wicket-taker with an impressive 17 wickets. Playing for India Red, Yadav played a crucial role to ensure his side sailed through to the final dismissing batsmen at will while keeping a check on the economy rate. His 17 wickets came at the cost of 474 runs in 119 overs at an average of 27.88. On the contrary, Mishra’s figures in the final read 195/3 in 46 overs at an average of 65.
Often touted as one of the most promising bowlers of this generation, Yadav has also impressed former Indian spinners like Erapalli Prasanna and Venkatapathy Raju. While Prasanna has reportedly compared him with Brad Hogg recently, Raju is hoping Yadav’s variations will play a key role in how his career shapes up. “India had a great series against West Indies and as the chief selector says, players should be given a longer run. Kuldeep is match-ready and is a vital backup for the spin trio,” said Raju. “It’s great to see the way he has been bowling in the Duleep Trophy. The team can now fall back on a number of players in case someone underperforms.”
The 21-year-old has a number of lethal options in his arsenal, with the wrong’un the deadliest of them all. Yadav made his first-class debut in 2012 but not until the 2014 U-19 World Cup did things turn around for him. He ended the campaign with 14 wickets as the second joint-highest wicket taker for India, justifying Kolkata Knight Riders’ $66,000 bid for him. The indications were clear. KKR wanted a home-grown bowler who they could mould into a game-changer in the future. And Yadav has already started showing glimpses what he is capable of. In the 2016 IPL he took six wickets in 3 matches, including a best of 3/35 against eventual champions Sunrisers Hyderabad.
He is yet to get a full season with Uttar Pradesh but Yadav’s performance in the Duleep Trophy is indication that the youngster is ready for the longest format. Not only does he possess the ability to pick wickets at regular intervals and keep a check on the run-rate, he also sticks to a particular line and length when needed. The only disadvantage for Yadav might be that he hasn’t been that impressive with the bat but that still shouldn’t be his priority, not at least now.
He might have missed out on the New Zealand series but what keeps Yadav in contention is the long domestic season that will run parallel to India’s internatonal home season. Yadav will get four Ranji Trophy matches with Uttar Pradesh before England arrive for their five-match Test series starting November 9. That should be enough time for Yadav to prove himself to the selectors.
Given the amount of cricket India are going to play at home for the next few months, Yadav can’t afford to be impatient. Selection doesn’t necessarily warrants a berth in the final team, as medium pacer Shardul Thakur must have found out in the tour of West Indies. But Yadav has the time and opportunity to add more weight to his claim.