Kuldeep displays all-round might on day it mattered

By, Kolkata
Dec 15, 2022 10:01 PM IST

Hits career-best 40 to take India past 400 with Ashwin before scalping four as Bangladesh slide to 133/8.

Twenty two months. That’s how long Kuldeep Yadav was out of sight, and probably out of the collective consciousness of Indian cricket. Backup in T20Is, almost an afterthought in ODIs, Kuldeep’s Test career — just six Tests in more than five years — too wasn’t going anywhere till he was picked as a third spinner for the Chattogram Test on Wednesday. He more than exploited that chance on Thursday, wrecking Bangladesh’s batting with a four-wicket haul after scoring a career-best 40 that helped India overcome a wobble and finish on 404 when they could have easily folded for 300.

Kuldeep Yadav(ANI)
Kuldeep Yadav(ANI)

Eight wickets down for just 133 at the end of the second day, Bangladesh are staring at an innings defeat unless India want to bat again. Kuldeep was the enforcer of this spectacular slide, taking three wickets in the space of 12 balls and breaking Bangladesh’s resolve after Ashwin’s fifty and three early wickets by Mohammed Siraj snuffed out any chance of parity in this match.

First blood was drawn on the first ball of Bangladesh’s innings when Siraj lured Najmul Hossain Shanto into playing away from his body and edging to the wicketkeeper. Yasir Ali then dragged Umesh Yadav onto his stumps. Debutant Zakir Hasan and Litton Das tried to steady the innings with a 34-run stand but Siraj returned to produce a delivery that jacked back and took the bottom edge of Das’s bat, crashing into his stumps. Another beauty from Siraj — the ball held its line this time outside off — had Hasan poke at it without any intent and reduce Bangladesh to 56/4. But still to come were Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh’s two most experienced batters. This is where Yadav made his presence felt almost immediately.

Second ball of his first over in Test cricket in almost two years, Kuldeep faced Shakib after Rahim tucked him away for a single. At home, or away, Shakib generally doesn’t let any spinner take the upper hand. Eager to probably establish that, Shakib skipped out of his crease early, allowing Kuldeep to quickly pull back the length of the delivery that took a thick outside edge and flew to Virat Kohli at slip.

“I was a bit nervous, I was very lucky to get the first wicket in the first over,” said Kuldeep. “(I) got the momentum back. After a couple of overs, I started feeling well, mixed my pace and variations, tried both the angles — over and round the wicket. I was getting proper turn, I was actually loving it. After I got injured, I started working on my rhythm, trying to be a bit quicker. That's helping me a lot. I am not compromising with the spin. When I was batting, I thought that there was not much in it for the spinners. I thought it'll be good for batting. When you're a wrist-spinner bowling with the Kookaburra ball, you'll definitely get turn and bounce on such wickets.”

Pegging back Bangladesh’s batters on their backfoot, Kuldeep was literally spinning yarns around them. Nurul Hasan’s struggle was particularly palpable as Yadav was mixing googlies with sharp leg-breaks till he couldn’t keep down a dab that Shubman Gill showed excellent reflexes to catch at short leg. Rahim was holding the innings at the other end, applying himself and trying to show the full face of his bat. But Kuldeep’s fuller lengths make it very difficult for batters to exercise restraint. Rahim finally walked into the trap, getting down and sweeping Kuldeep’s full toss through midwicket for a thumping boundary. Next ball though was fuller around off and spun past Rahim’s inside edge to hit his front pad. Rahim straightaway reviewed it but the replays ruled it in the umpire’s favour. Four more balls and Taijul Islam was also trudging back after Yadav’s googly cramped him up for a slash that played him on.

From the context of the match, Kuldeep’s 40 was equally, if not more, significant. With Shreyas Iyer going back after adding just four runs to his overnight total of 82, the onus was thought to be on Ravichandran Ashwin to live up to his batting credentials. Ashwin was expectedly calm in stitching a 92-run partnership with Kuldeep, hitting just two fours and two sixes in his innings of 58. But Kuldeep, who has a century and six fifties averaging 22-plus in first class cricket, also took the attack to Bangladesh with his slog and reverse sweeps after taking 18 balls to open his account. Both fell on the cusp of reaching 400 but Umesh hit two massive sixes to help India cross a psychological barrier that is now proving to be too much for Bangladesh to handle.

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    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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