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Umesh Yadav relishing the unforeseen sense of security

Last updated on 01 Apr 2022 | 09:09 PM
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Umesh Yadav relishing the unforeseen sense of security

Things are falling in place for Umesh Yadav when he may have least expected

What is the worst thing that can happen to an athlete? Limited opportunities at the peak of his or her career. It may be due to injuries or factors beyond control. In Umesh Yadav’s case, it is the latter. At the peak of his prowess as well as fitness, he has had to spend more time on the bench than bowling thunderbolts. 

To understand his situation, you have to understand Umesh Yadav the Test bowler. Between 2012 and 2016, Umesh averaged 43.9 for his 52 wickets in 44 Tests. In 2017, he pulled it down to 29.3 runs per wicket. Cometh 2018, something clicked for him that turned him into the bowler everyone expected him to be. He snaffled 43 wickets in 2018 and 2019 at only 17.3 runs apiece. You don’t need to rub your eyes. You read it right. 

Umesh was a critical part of the golden generation of the Indian pace unit that coincided with his peak. In fact, the right-arm pacer made the Indian pace battery invincible at home, striking every 35.3 deliveries. It was the best bowling strike rate for an Indian pacer in home conditions. It was unprecedented.

Yet, he was not originally selected when South Africa toured India in the last quarter of 2019. You cannot term it as a selection goof-up. It was a result of India’s stacked-up bowling resources in the pace department. Unfortunately, Umesh had to make way. Jasprit Bumrah’s emergence restricted his opportunities, often resting on Bumrah’s fitness or rest - the latter was mostly the case in home Tests. 

Covid-19 meant India didn’t play a home Test between facing Bangladesh in November 2019 and England in February 2021. In the meantime, Mohammad Siraj also joined the party and enjoyed precedence owing to his age. Bumrah played his first Test in India during the series against England. Through no fault of anyone, the opportunities in home Tests also became too far and few in between for the Nagpur-born. 


While his red-ball bowling improved, he still didn’t cut it in the white-ball format. Lack of control has been Umesh’s biggest enemy. Inevitably, he had to pay the price in shorter formats. In Match 39 of IPL 2019, MS Dhoni tactically left himself to score 26 runs off Umesh’s last over to pull off a win. Dhoni scored 24 which shows he wasn’t wrong to back himself against Umesh. 

Overall, he had eight wickets in 11 games that season. The average and economy stood at 46.4 and 9.8 respectively. These are miserable numbers for an international bowler. But you can blame the Bangalore franchise for not using him well. With a natural tendency for good length bowling, he was never a death bowler. His best use lies in picking wickets with the new ball. That role was unavailable with Delhi Capitals, his franchise for the subsequent IPL seasons in 2020 and 2021. 

His time with Delhi coincided with the presence of two ripping pacers in the franchise - Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje. The latter’s inclusion pushed out Ishant Sharma from their preferred XI. Once again, through no fault of anyone, Umesh played only two games in two seasons for Delhi. 

Since 2020, he missed 15 Tests and 26 league games in IPL. Life wasn’t fair to Umesh Yadav for a long time. 


“Playing white-ball cricket after long and doing well, it is definitely a good feeling”

The wistful longing was crystal clear in Umesh’s words and beaming smile after his 4/23 against Punjab, his best IPL figures. It has come in a way like it was long due. 

The 34-year old was unsold when his name was first called in the mega auction on February 12. Kolkata Knight Riders picked him in their last-minute shopping to fill notable slots in their first XI, one of which was of an Indian seamer. 

Knowingly or unknowingly, KKR opened the door for Umesh to spend more time on the field rather than warming the bench. To their credit, they are using him in the most efficient manner: finishing his quota before the death overs. 

"My task is always to take wickets with the new ball. That's the task my team has given me, and I'm trying my best to do that,” the seamer elaborated on his role. 

The only pattern in the first week of IPL is astonishing fast bowling akin to cathartic new ball spells in Test cricket. The whole tournament taking place in Mumbai and Pune has enabled bowlers with red-ball credentials to be more effective upfront. The length of Umesh’s eight wickets in the season thus far is a testament to his brilliance in the longer format. 

You add his hunger accumulated from all the time spent on the bench. In all three games, Umesh has struck in his first over. He has accounted for the wickets of some high-profile players like Gaikwad, Virat Kohli, and Mayank Agarwal. He averages 7.8 in the powerplay at an economy of 4.9. There is both control and aggression. 

Umesh’s new ball spells are vital for a side like KKR where the fifth bowling option isn’t convincing. His new-ball wickets allow them the cushion to cover that chink. Against Punjab, he not only bulldozed Punjab’s convincing opening pair but also delivered the knockout punch, finishing his spell with a double-wicket maiden, bowling the 15th over of the innings. 

Things fall in place when you least expect it. After many years, Umesh has a sense of security and he is enjoying it to the fullest. 

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