In 2008, when Tim Southee was making waves in competitive cricket as a 19-year-old, Umesh Yadav had only started considering a career in the sport. Nearly a decade and a half later, Southee, a year younger and 366 international wickets ahead of Umesh, is so impressed with his Kolkata Knight Riders teammate's bowling in IPL-15, that the New Zealander is backing him to wear the India jersey again in the shortest format, having last played a T20I more than three years ago.
"I'm a fan of Umesh, he is a tremendous bowler. I was fortunate enough to share the new ball with him a few times when we both played at RCB," Southee said in an interview to PTI.
"The way he's been managed suits Umesh's style of bowling. If he keeps performing the way he's been doing I can't see why he would not do well for India in T20 cricket."
Maintaining a great line and length, the 34-year-old Umesh has been very effective for KKR this season, giving crucial breakthroughs in the powerplays. He has taken 10 wickets from five matches so far, at an economy of 6.60 while bowling the highest number of dot balls (62). His scalps include those of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma inside the powerplay, while against Punjab Kings, he delivered a magical double-wicket maiden in the middle overs to skittle them out for 137.
In the auction, Umesh was bought by KKR at his base price of Rs 2 crore.
Credit goes to KKR think tank
Giving credit to the team's think tank for bringing the best out of Umesh, the 33-year-old Kiwi said the side has benefitted from it. "The way the KKR has used him has been outstanding. (Head coach) Brendon (McCullum) and (captain) Shreyas (Iyer) have used him obviously as an attacking weapon with the new ball, maximizing his strengths with the new ball and coming back in the middle overs to try and pick up wickets to make the phase a bit easier.
"He's had a strong start to the tournament. To open the bowling with some of the great bowlers, and someone who you don't usually get to deal with, that's the beauty of this tournament. you are able to open the bowling with the very fine Indian fast bowler."
With premier Australian fast bowler Pat Cummins leading the pace attack, and Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy handling the spin department, KKR have their bases covered in the bowling department, Southee said.
"It's really exciting. You look at the experience and the pace that the three have and then we throw in the exciting talents of the young Indian bowlers who we have in our side. On top of that you have got two of the great mystery spinners of the game so I think as a bowling attack that covers all the bases.
"It's great to be a part of such a great lineup. You got the experience of Sunil Narine, Pat, and Umesh and then throw in some exciting young Indian talents, it's great to be around."
Impressed with young pace duo
Southee also praised the young pace duo of Rasikh Salam and Ashok Sharma. The 22-year-old Kashmir pacer, Rasikh made his debut for the franchise against his former team Mumbai Indians and was tidy against the explosive duo of Rohit Sharma and Ishan Kishan, returning with figures of 0/18 from his three overs.
"Rasikh Salam who played his first game the other day is just a very skillful bowler and can swing the ball both ways. Then there's Ashok (Sharma). It's always an eye-opener when you come to India and see these young Indian talented guys. They are asking some tough questions which are great to see," Southee concluded.