For the most unreasonable of reasons, Kuldeep Yadav was rather unwittingly in the media crosshairs recently. The young Chinaman bowler was said to have been the root cause of the rift between Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble. While the coach was all for Kuldeep, the captain was not particularly keen on him. For his part, the Kanpur resident was unaffected by such chatter. He performed splendidly on Test debut at Dharamsala and triggered an Australia collapse out of nowhere to set up an India win.
Now, having had a successful IPL and having missed the Champions Trophy bus, Kuldeep has been named in India’s squad to tour the West Indies. In this candid chat with Yahoo Cricket, the talented 22-year-old opens up about his plans and aspirations.
Did being from a smaller center (Kanpur) make it harder for you to break into the national team?
Obviously it is very difficult in Kanpur. I struggled in my early days and did not have it easy at all. It was tough to bowl well on cement and matting pitches. Then I set myself small targets like playing for the district, going for the state trials, playing for the Under 19 team etc. The bigger target of playing for India was not really on my mind.
Who broke the news of your West Indies selection to you?
I was at practice when I got a call from my dad. He told me I had made it and I was obviously very happy.
Were you also expecting a call up for the Champions Trophy? Were you disappointed when you were not selected?
Not really. In English conditions any team would prefer two quality spinners, which the team already had. I wasn’t worried about that (not being selected) at all.
Tell us about your Test debut
Anil (Kumble) bhai told me before the match that ‘you’ll be playing tomorrow’. I was both happy and nervous and a little tense. I was worried about my performance, but after the game I was really happy.
On turning the Dharamsala Test on its head
When I got the ball in my hand there was only one thing on my mind: to bowl in the right places. After the lunch break Anil bhai asked me to bowl dots and keep them under pressure. I just went out and followed what he said and it worked!
Your most special wicket
For me the first wicket was very important. After that I got into the groove. But my favourite dismissals were those of (Glenn) Maxwell and (Peter) Handscomb. I got Handscomb with a wrong one and played on Maxwell’s mind to get him out.
On Shane Warne’s role in your development
Shane Warne is everything to me. I started out as a fast bowler because I grew up idolising Wasim Akram. Then I became a huge Shane Warne fan and obviously talking to one’s idol is a great thing. Warne spoke to me about his bowling and my bowling and his inputs were of immense help.
How do you plan to cement your India place?
As a youngster I have a game-by-game focus. I want to work on my strengths rather than on other stuff. I need to work really hard on my fitness and also on my batting and fielding. I am not really worried about the competition (other players) but about my own ability.
Your most potent weapon?
I believe in my chinaman more than in any variation. I feel I’m mainly known as a chinaman bowler and that’s what I’m working on.
Who is your idol Chinaman bowler?
Having worked with Brad Hogg, he is my favourite. He has great skill, a great wrong one, as well as a great flipper. He’s got everything!
Your favourite batsman?
Virat Kohli. He is, after all, the No.1 batsman in the world. I also admire Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers and would love to bowl to them.
What are your other interests?
I really love soccer and I’m a big fan of Barcelona. Actually, I don’t watch cricket much, but love watching soccer. I also enjoy playing table tennis and watching movies.
Your preparation for West Indies?
I’m just doing the normal things. I’m working on my variations and developing my strengths.