The more Umesh Yadav bowls in matches, the fitter he gets, says Zaheer Khan
Umesh Yadav was a constant in the Indian Test side, even as Mohammed Shami broke down, Ishant Sharma was inconsistent and Bhuvneshwar Kumar was used sparingly. Delhi Daredevils skipper Zaheer Khan sees it as a sign of a fast bowler being in good rhythmcricket Updated: Mar 31, 2017 23:53 IST
In terms of sheer talent among the current India pacers, Mohammed Shami should come closest to Zaheer Khan, whose control and variations confounded batsmen. Ishant Sharma is the most experienced while Bhuvneshwar Kumar is fourth in the hierarchy.
However, as India wrapped up a 13-Test long home season, it was Umesh Yadav who finished way ahead of his teammates. The robust bowler ran in showing no signs of wear and tear and hurled thunderbolts at the batsmen, bowling as many as 356 overs in 12 Tests.
The 29-year-old averaged 30 overs per Test on Indian tracks mostly favouring spin, collecting 32 wickets in the season, 17 of them at an average of 23.41 in the 2-1 series win over Australia.
His intensity never slackened, be it bowling with the new ball or old. One statistic stood out. Injuries and form has seen Umesh play only 31 Tests since debut in 2011. But 14 of them came this season, starting with the West Indies tour last year.
Umesh was the constant as Shami broke down, Ishant was inconsistent and Bhuvi was used a reserve bowler. Umesh stuck to team plans, maintaining pressure at one end when spinners needed rest or providing breakthroughs by reversing the ball at high pace, bowling long spells when needed.
Umesh Yadav! 💪😹 pic.twitter.com/lcPpWGjmu8— Sonu (@_hafees) March 18, 2017
Zaheer, the Delhi Daredevils captain, put it down to Umesh’s rhythm.
“You don’t have control over injuries. I always preferred matches (to prepare). When you are in rhythm, you can maintain that and maintain workload in practice. That is the beauty of bowling fitness,” he said on Friday.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
It is not just batsmen, bowlers too mature with time. Umesh always had the pace, but his crafty approach on a slow Ferozeshah Kotla pitch, in the final Test against South Africa in December 2015, that helped wear down a group of batsmen playing blockathons. His fiery spell, and a match haul of five wickets proved his ticket to becoming an India regular.
Against Australia, Umesh hit the deck in Dharamsala, and bowled a fuller length on the slow Ranchi pitch. And on the scuffed up Bangalore and Pune tracks, he bent his back with the new ball, making the batsmen play as much as possible.
“The more you bowl, the better you are going to get,” Zaheer said at a Daredevils event. “I still believe match practice is the best practice as you could keep improving if you are in rhythm.
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“The support role the fast bowlers played this season has been of great help. If you have bowlers bowling over 140 kph, it’s of great help while the ball is reversing. Umesh has realised that well and bowled brilliantly.”
In Dharamsala, Umesh took five wickets, the three in the second innings breaking Australia’s back.
“I just told myself this is the last Test of the season and I have to show what I have got,” Umesh said after that win.
The long Test season would have taken a toll on the body, and it will be interesting how Umesh turns up in the IPL.
Zaheer, once India’s bowling captain, wasn’t concerned. “Someone like Umesh, he has played all season, (but) he is not going to realise when 20 overs are going to be over. For all bowlers who are playing Tests, it will be easier to play in IPL in terms of having great bowling fitness.”