In the context of Test matches in India, one normally expects batsmen to score a mountain of runs and spinners to pick up truckloads of wickets. That has stood true during India’s ongoing home season too. But amidst the success of the batsmen and spinners, one Indian fast bowler has shone brightly.
In conditions where he’s had little going for his style of bowling, Umesh Yadav has been a joy to watch right through this home season.
The 29-year-old has run in hard every time he has been given the ball, and given more than a hundred percent. He has been a captain’s delight – he’s bowled express pace consistently, has hit the bat hard regularly, and even generated discerning bounce off the docile surfaces we’ve seen.
Many years from now, if the pacer from Nagpur turns the pages back, he will probably identify this series against Australia as the moment he turned the corner. Barring the second innings in the Ranchi Test, which ended in a draw, Umesh has met with success in each of the remaining seven innings he has bowled in this series.
Umesh’s tally of 17 wickets in the ongoing series makes it his most successful series in his six-year Test career. The pacer appears to have taken a special liking to the Aussies too, for nearly half his Test wickets are those of Australian batsmen. In 11 Test matches against Australia, Umesh has picked up a total of 42 wickets.
Trivia: Umesh Yadav’s bunnies in Test cricket: Shaun Marsh – 8 dismissals, David Warner – 6 dismissals, Steven Smith – 4 dismissals.
It is not like Umesh’s improved performance is restricted to the ongoing series against Australia alone either.
Right through India’s home season, Umesh has been spectacular. He started the season slowly, picking up only 2 wickets in two Test matches against New Zealand, then added 8 wickets in the five-Test series against England, picked up 3 wickets in the solitary Test against Bangladesh, and now the 17-wicket return against the highest-ranked opponent in the world.
How good has Umesh been this season?
The Indian team has played 13 Test matches at home this season, and Umesh has featured in twelve of those. No other Indian pacer has played more than 6 Test matches this season.
Further, the Indian quicks together picked up a total of 67 wickets this season, and 30 of them are against Umesh Yadav’s name.
It is a tribute to Umesh’s fitness levels that he has played through almost the entire season.
Since 1933, when a Test match was played on Indian soil for the first time, only two Indian fast bowlers have bowled more overs in a home season than Umesh Yadav has done this time around; Kapil Dev bowled 472 overs in 13 Test matches in 1979-80, while his new ball partner Karsan Ghavri bowled 408 overs of medium pace in the same season.
For Umesh to bowl just as many – without compromising on the speed – is a tribute to his bowling fitness.
At the end of what has been a gruelling season, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Umesh Yadav has mastered the difficult skill of picking up wickets on sub-continent pitches.
From being an outright quick bowler, who at times lacked control, Umesh – Version 2.0 – has developed into a bowler who can get his disciplines right without compromising on his key weapon – pace, and one who has learnt to set batsmen up and buy wickets.