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Ban vs Ind – 1st Test 2022-23

Kuldeep Yadav has bowled in 13 Test innings. Astoundingly, he has taken four or more wickets in five of those. He takes a wicket almost every six overs. He has taken more wickets than bowled maidens in his short Test career, spread over eight Tests played in seven series in five and a half years.

It’s a pretty small sample size and it tends to only play when an extra spinner is needed, which explains these numbers a bit. But only eight Tests in five years? If Kuldeep feels passed over, he would be justified, but there is a combination of factors at play. For a regular slot, it competes with two all-time great spinners, which being finger spinners make them less of a gamble. Since India only plays the five batters, hitting the spinners is more than just a bonus. In road play, the lone spinner’s hitting ability becomes a big factor, as R Ashwin will attest.

Still, perhaps more than the team combinations, Kuldeep’s intermediate demise in limited overs cricket between those rare Test matches was precipitous. Sometimes faith in him is completely lost not only from India but also from Kolkata Knight Riders. It became a vicious circle. Coaches and captains spoke of his lack of speed. The faster he tried to bowl, the less effective he became. The less effective he became, the less they played him.

Kuldeep’s four-for – which could turn into a five on morning three – on comeback will be so much sweeter than on a slow and low pitch. So slow and low that Kuldeep himself survived 114 balls for his career best 40 when he batted.

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It wasn’t just about the pace. What coaches really wanted behind the scenes was more power in his action, as former bowling coach Bharat Arun used to say. For a non-connoisseur, a few changes are visible. He runs in straighter, the back foot lands parallel to the crease, the bowling arm is slightly closer to the ear and the leading arm does a lot more work.

Kuldeeps coach Kapil Pandey told that Hindu times earlier this year that a key part of their work was to increase the speed of the front arm and then regain accuracy.

A cursory glance at the speed gun in Chattogram will tell you that the change wasn’t so much about pace as it was about working on the ball. There was, in Arun’s words, power in how Kuldeep bowled for his four wickets. The drift or drop on the ball kind of helps it land where the batter expects, creating the illusion that things are happening quickly because of the batter’s rushed response.

In two of his wickets, Kuldeep did the work in the air before any off-field action came into play. Shakib Al Hasan was dragged out of his crease as Kuldeep’s first ball, and the ball drifted in dramatically to make him close face as he defended for body. The ball was out of bounds when Shakib started to move and ended up on or off the leg stump.

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Mushfiqur Rahim saw a very full ball for which he felt he did not need to stretch forward. But again the drift and dip created the gap between his bat and the pitch of the ball. The bat went wider than it should, and the ball also had enough time to swing past it and catch it on the crease.

Nurul Hasan was eliminated by a sensational short-leg catch, but the ball turned in sharply, allowing him to play when he could have let the ball hit. That wicket should have satisfied Kuldeep, because apart from the drift that dragged Nurul across, the turn was so fast that he finally threw his hands at it in panic.

The fourth was an error by a lower-order batter, which should underline Kuldeep’s importance in bowling to the tail. Kuldeep told the hosts that he got the right turn and that he loved it. He said his work on getting “a little” faster helped him.

Just to point out the depth of Indian cricket, Kuldeep probably wouldn’t have played if Ravindra had played Jadeja. In Ashwin, Jadeja and Axar Patel, India has a dream combination of three excellent spinners who can also hit with varying degrees of effectiveness.

However, if Kuldeep’s impressive comeback continues – he should get a second Test in a series for the second time in his career when India head to Mirpur – Kuldeep presents himself as a series difference against Australia in the crucial Border-Gavaskar Trophy where a misstep could cost India a spot in the World Test Championship final. The only thing is that he has to go up against Axar, who takes a wicket every 34.5 balls and has a small five five-big in 13 innings.

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It will probably come down to how much assist there is in a roll – the more the turn, the more likely Axar is to play – but even if Jadeja isn’t fully fit again, India know they still have three spinners to harass Australia .

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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