Every time Umesh Yadav stepped out to bowl in the India-England series, the question that did the rounds was if one had seen the ball clock an incredible 145kmph. The outcome of a 'Yadav delivery'-whether it fetched a wicket or was dispatched to the fence, didn't matter much. As long as he was bowling 'quick', everyone was happy.
Wonder, why we are so obsessed with pace. Perhaps, it's the deficiency of fast bowlers which makes us crave for the skill. While we may have become a force to reckon with -becoming both the best Test team and having won the World Cup, we have fallen short of giving back as good as we've got in the pace department.
Yadav learnt the most important lesson early in his career that pace alone wouldn't do it. While he was quick from the beginning, he primarily bowled two lengths - either really short or really full. His pace got him through the initial rounds (domestic cricket) but he soon realised that the same pace that had got him so far, worked against him at the higher level. He needed to rework his length and also add another dimension to his bowling to succeed.
I played Yadav in this season's Irani Trophy, and the change was apparent. He not only consistently pitched the ball in the good length area but also got the ball to swing away from the right-handed batsmen. No longer was he trying to bounce people out and it worked.
It's heartening to know that the team management has defined a role for Yadav. He's been asked to bowl as fast as he can, for that's his forte and go for wickets, which is essential. He's also given the licence to go for a few runs in the bargain, which he would from time to time. The last thing we want is for someone to tell him to sacrifice pace for accuracy. We know what happened to Munaf Patel and let's hope Yadav won't go down that road.
The remaining matches in the series and a few more against the West Indies will prime Yadav to face the tougher challenges in Australia. The series Down Under will be played with the Kookaburra ball on hard surfaces, hence he could become an important cog in India's bowling wheel, since he's a typical hit-the-deck-hard bowler, a must to succeed in Australia. But he may still have to work on adding a few variations and improving accuracy.