When a Test is in Asia, and you are playing India, spin is definitely going to play a huge role in the outcome of the game. But then walks in Umesh Yadav with the new ball, slants the ball ever so slightly away from the left-hander, into the right-hander and then your perception of Asia immediately changes.
If you didn't watch a single minute of day one of the Dhaka Test, it would feel like Umesh picked up four random wickets, including one of Taskin Ahmed. Doesn't sound like a big deal, does it? He isn’t threatening but the amount of movement that he gets is just enough to leave the batters dumbfounded.
Indian skipper KL Rahul after winning the toss, uttered “We have to bowl here,” and it came as a shock. But not as much of a shock as what he was going to utter next, Kuldeep Yadav isn’t playing, Jaydev Unadkat marks his return. If you had just installed Twitter on your phone, you would have looked at it and gone, is Rahul a crazy lad?
It isn’t every other day that a player who won the Player of the Match would be dropped from the playing XI. All the focus was on that. Perhaps, even the Bangladesh batters were a bit relieved to know that Kuldeep wasn’t going to play.
But they were not prepared for the beast: Umesh. Unlike others, my cricketing journey did not cross paths with Courtney Walsh and peak Waqar Younis but it coincided with the growth, the fall and the regrowth of Umesh. At the age of 35, when pacers usually turn slower, Umesh is just picking up the pace and the heat by the hour.
“You have to be patient. One odd ball is kicking from back of length, and if you bowl full it is not swinging or doing anything. There is no pace,” said Umesh Yadav at the end of day’s play.
He’s played over 50 Tests for India, toured across five continents, and eight countries. But the catch there is that he has just played the 16 Tests away from home, which has kind of set a perception around him. Those who just watch the sport casually, just think he isn’t good enough and those who have seen him enough, can’t rave less.
Till Lunch, he had put immense pressure on the batters but was never rewarded with a wicket. What the right-arm pacer did was perhaps like a bait to the fishes, and then the time was right there for him to feast on his hard work.
Bangladesh were in tatters at that point. But this isn’t a one-off incident. Umesh has always loved the old-ball, where he has progressively gotten better, with the ball tailing in like a yo-yo that has been thrown around in windy conditions. Imagine if you are batting with the wind blowing around and a bowler gets the ball to move away at around 140 kmph, what would you do?
Most of us would walk away throwing our bat. Most of us included Bangladesh batters, who didn’t have a clue against Umesh during his spell after Lunch. In that spell, he got the ball to move around, sometimes prodigiously and sometimes just enough to take it past the batters. It is that just enough which causes a lot of trouble.
"Test cricket is a game of patience. It's a question of who has more patience and they will get the result."
It is fitting that the 35-year-old Umesh uttered these words on a day where Unadkat marked his return. It kills two birds with one stone. Unadkat’s journey has already been well captured but Umesh’s journey from being the inconsistency in the Indian pace attack to being the leader of the pack, is a journey for ages.
An average of 26.3, and a strike-rate of 48.5, the Vidarbha pacer’s name has already been etched in the history book. He’s already in an illustrious list alongside Waqar Younis, Mohammed Shami, Dale Steyn, Shoaib Akhtar and Courtney Walsh.
Only Shami has a better strike-rate (41.4) than Umesh (48.5), which is the second-best for all Indian pacers in Asia, with a minimum of 250+ overs. In India, the strike-rate falls lower to just 47.2, with an average of 25.2.
"It is a 50-50 kind of wicket for both pacers and spinners.”
On a 50-50 kind of wicket, the pacer ended with figures of 4/25. It wasn’t a wicket that was green, the ball wasn’t doing a whole lot yet the right-arm pacer stood out. If anything, the 35-year-old from Nagpur will go down in the history of Indian cricket as one of the best, if not the best pacer.
In a game of pace, swing and seam, it was Umesh’s patience, his biggest virtue that made him beastlike.