On these performances, I hope to play white-ball cricket again for India: Umesh Yadav
The seasoned India fast bowler is making an impact with Middlesex in the one-day tournament and hopes it helps break into the limited-overs sides with two World Cups ahead
It’s been a hot English summer. In County cricket, the pitches are dry, flat and the batters have made merry. It’s been hard work for the pace bowlers. While the spotlight is on Cheteshwar Pujara for his form with Sussex, his India teammate Umesh Yadav is also making an impact with Middlesex. He is the joint top wicket-taker in the Royal London One-Day tournament.
Having chosen him as replacement for Pakistan pace sensation Shaheen Shah Afridi, his County will be delighted with Yadav, whose 15 wickets in five games has helped Middlesex to go atop their group with four wins. Written off as a white-ball bowler before this season, Yadav has made a statement, picking 16 wickets in 12 games for Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL before this stint. It has helped regain confidence and the bowler with 106 ODIs and 12 years of IPL behind him says he deserves another chance in India’s limited-over format as well in this interview.
How do you look at your overall season?
The last two years (2020, 2021) were tough because I didn’t get chances in IPL. After that I didn’t play much cricket. So, when I got the opportunity with KKR, I knew I had to do well. If I have to make a comeback into the Indian team I have to perform, that was my thinking. I applied all my experience from so many years of white-ball cricket because I knew that back-to-back big tournaments are going to come, two World Cups. I believe that if I do well I can make a comeback into India’s white-ball teams. I am enjoying my bowling. Whatever I am thinking and want to do, I am able to bowl. From IPL on, that rhythm is going well. I am enjoying; what hard work I had done is helping me.
What is different this season? Have you made technical changes?
When you keep playing, automatically changes happen in your bowling. When I started playing my action was something else, with time it became something else. It affects your bowling. My arm had started coming from the side, (the action) had started becoming round arm. In trying to bowl fast, you lose balance (at the crease). I understood my bowling better, found out that the use of crease is quite important for me—how better can I do when I bowl from wide of the crease or from close to the stumps. My thought process, I removed all negative thoughts and instead just focused on pitching in the right areas. I took out all fear. It happens; sometimes you go for a couple of boundaries and come under pressure. In those situations also I tried to keep my cool and let my brain work on what I have to do. My rhythm was also good. I was trying to get better. I understood all these things and did well for KKR.
How has been the Middlesex experience?
The pitches here are still very flat, not easy for the pace bowlers. If you see, everywhere the scores are 300 plus. I am bowling with the new ball, in the middle overs and at the death, and taking wickets with the new and the old ball. I am bowling my yorkers on target. My thought process is that I am bowling well and in the coming days, on the basis of such performances, I should again get to play for India. I want to deliver such performances for my country.
Your economy rate was high and your white-ball career suffered.
The more matches you play, the better you get, white-ball cricket is like that. If you want me to play one match after six months and immediately become as brilliant as Bhuvneshwar (Kumar) or (Jasprit) Bumrah in the first game itself, it is not possible. If you play after long gaps, it is difficult as a bowler. Bowling in the nets and at the ground are different. (Playing regularly) rhythm set ho jaata hai, when to bowl the slower ball or yorker, how much the ball is swinging, or not. With me what has happened is kafi gap ho jaata tha (I have got chances after a gap of months). So, you are under pressure that you have two games to prove yourself. You have the pressure that you have to bowl well, and secondly you have to take wickets also.
People are saying my rhythm is good. Why? Because I am playing a lot of matches. If I get to play a game after three months, it doesn’t work. Your fitness has to be at that level. Almost everyone who has done well in IPL has got a chance. Probably, I am the only bowler who has not been selected. I have nothing against anyone, I am talking about myself. My only point is everyone has been given a chance and I should also be given in the future. I also want to play as much I can.
You were superb at Oval (4th Test) and then to sit out at Birmingham (5th Test) must have been disappointing?
As a performer you feel that you had done well and are hopeful of getting the chance to play. Still, whatever the team’s decision, I respect that. But if you look at the season ahead, there are no Tests. Our next Test is in December-January. If there are no matches, how will you stay fit?
I am very lucky I got this offer from Middlesex. I was wondering what I would have done if I had to go home after the fifth Test.
How important was IPL?
When the auction happened, twice I went unsold. A player will only know how (tough) it is. You have been playing for so many years and it has never happened that no one has bid for you, then twice you have gone unsold. I felt sad and was stunned. Then you realise that people are not bidding for you because you didn’t play for the last two years. But I am very happy that KKR gave me an opportunity. For me, this IPL was very important.
County stints have been a blessing for many, it helped Pujara make a comeback, it helped Zaheer…
It has given me a lot of confidence. When you come to a team where you are the main bowler, I know I have the responsibility. To bowl with responsibility, under pressure is different. I am enjoying the pressure, giving my best. We have won four of the five matches.
I know how Zaheer Khan’s career changed after his County experience (Worcestershire, 2006). I am just hoping the same thing happens with my career. I am taking a lot of experience from here. If I get a chance to play for India, I will try and execute the things I have added to my game here.