In India’s magnificent 100-run win over England to continue their unbeaten run in 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup, left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav produced a magic moment with the ball which left everyone gasping, an expression which was noticed on the faces of 46,000 spectators at the BRSABV Ekana Cricket Stadium.
On the first ball of the 16th over, Kuldeep pitched one outside the off-stump with a flatter trajectory and got the ball to turn sharply by nearly a mile to sneak through the gate of England captain Jos Buttler and rattled the stumps with precision.
The manner of taking out Buttler sparked immediate comparisons with Kuldeep taking out Pakistan captain Babar Azam in a similar fashion at Manchester in 2019. But Kuldeep thinks the deliveries bowled to dismiss Azam and Buttler were just similar.
“Both the balls were good. I think both the balls were the same. There were no changes. The quality is important, and the quality of the players is also very important. They were very important wickets and the team won – that is more important,” he said in the post-match press conference.
In what was the first occasion of India bowling under lights in the competition, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami bowled blazing spells of 3-32 and 4-22 respectively to set the base for England being bowled out for 129.
Kuldeep, who had figures of 2-24, said his job was to build on the good work done by Shami and Bumrah. In a way, life came full circle for the Kanpur-based Kuldeep, who was smacked for 72 runs by England in the 2019 World Cup clash, which led to a start of his downward spiral, before he reinvented himself with aplomb to be India’s mainstay in the middle overs.
“I mean, it is good if we get the batting first. But if we get a good score, it would have been more fun. The score was good at 230 and the wicket was difficult. The way Rohit (Sharma) batted and gave a good respectable total of 230, I was hoping that if we get two wickets in powerplay, we will be in the game.”
“The way Shami and Jasprit bowled, the first spell, they got two wickets in powerplay and we were back in the game. My job was simple, to bowl at a good length. It was spinning. I used the crease well. The result was good. I know my hometown conditions very well. The wicket spins and when you bowl on seam, it spins better. I was trying to bowl the ball on a good length and use the crease well.”
Kuldeep opined that dew does become a challenge when bowling under lights and credited the consistent game time in ODIs this year for giving him preparation to execute his plans for bowling in the second innings.
“This full year I have played one day matches and bowled at night. I have played in Australia, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka. I have always been prepared. I have played more one day cricket this year. There is no big change in bowling at night.”
“I mean, there is only one factor of dew. As a bowler, you don't want to bowl in dew because it's easier to bat, but I don't have a problem with bowling at night or during the day. If your batters score well, 300 plus, then bowling becomes a little easier.”
“But yes, 100% this has been because of the preparation for the whole year and the way we played back-to-back bilateral series this year, our preparation for the World Cup, so there is no drastic change in bowling at night or in the day.”
In India’s total of 229/9 on a two-paced pitch, Kuldeep put on 21 runs with Jasprit Bumrah for the ninth wicket. In the run-up to the clash against England, Kuldeep, Bumrah and other tail-enders were given a good batting practice in anticipation of them contributing with the bat, especially in absence of Hardik Pandya.
“I am working hard on my batting, I am contributing to the team, I contribute 10-15 runs, it helps the team. The last 25-odd run partnership helped us to reach a good target of 230. I felt that we can defend it. It's not like I'm only batting in matches. I'm also working on my batting in practice.”
“Sometimes I score, sometimes maybe it doesn’t hit the bat. I get out, we get the last 3-4 overs to bat. Sometimes you don't get a single, you get a few dots. You don't think like a batsman. If you get 2 dot balls, you get under pressure. But yes, we are working on batting. Hopefully, in the future, we will make 15-20 runs instead of 10,” concluded Kuldeep.