When an opposition rolls over for 311 and 127 in a Test match in India, one looks for the numbers in the wickets column next to the spinners. Against the West Indies in Hyderabad, half of the 20 wickets were against Umesh Yadav’s name.
Yadav has been around for a while, and it was his 40th Test. Early on in his career, he was fast and wayward, which explains a career average of 32.85. But it drops under 30 for the past two years, when he has played 19 Tests and picked up 57 of his 117 wickets.
In many ways, Yadav is India’s first-choice pacer when playing at home. He got to play just one Test in England recently, but back in India, he became the frontman. More than that in Hyderabad, in fact, as Shardul Thakur, the only other paceman, limped off after bowling just 10 balls, leaving Yadav to do it all on his own.
— BCCI (@BCCI) October 14, 2018
He did brilliantly, with 6-88 in the first innings – his second five-for in a Test innings – and 4-45 in the second – to complete his first Test ten-wicket haul.
“Outstanding. To bowl like that in both innings was a great effort on his part, and showed the kind of fitness level he has, to keep running in and bowling 140 clicks throughout the game … picking wickets, importantly, not just completing overs,” said Kohli, more than just a little impressed.
“I think this was the standout performance in his career, and something he can build on.”
Yadav’s strengths are pace and swing – conventional and reverse. On helpful tracks, he gets a fair bit of bounce as well. Not a bad arsenal on the whole.
“Not many people realise, but he’s a very, very talented bowler,” said Kohli. “He can bowl unplayable deliveries every now and then, which we experience in the nets all the time. He’ll bowl a ball that you’ll feel you couldn’t have done anything else apart from getting out.
“He’s gaining more confidence about his own game, especially in Test cricket he’s come a long way. He understands his bowling really well.”
— Suresh Raina (@ImRaina) October 14, 2018
India’s next Test assignments will be in Australia later in the year. After the extremely good show by the Indian pacers in England, Yadav’s re-emergence has added to India’s problem of plenty, at least in the pace department.
“It’s good to have so many guys who are bowling so well, because anyone can step in at any time for anyone. So I think that’s a great luxury to have from a team’s point of view,” said Kohli. “It’s a great sign to have four guys bowling so well, who can pick you wickets, because that’s something we want to keep as a consistent part of our team.
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) October 14, 2018
“Obviously the batting is something we, learning from the last tour, we want to improve on. Collectively. But bowling is something we need to keep as a major strength for us, for us to feel we have a chance to win series when we travel away from home as well. These guys are really taking the responsibility well.”
Of India’s main pace options, Bhuvneshwar Kumar is an out-and-out swing bowler, something that might not be as useful in Australia as it would have been in England had Kumar been fit for the series. Then there are Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami, plus Hardik Pandya, the fast-bowling all-rounder. And now Yadav.
“It’s indeed a good headache to have. Especially when all four guys are touching 140 and they are all taking wickets for you, it’s obviously something any captain would like to have,” agreed Kohli.
“You don’t want two guys not bowling well. You pick people in the team expecting that they will perform well, and they will bowl well. It’s good to have all guys confident and raring to go, because four Tests in Australia can be brutal. The ball doesn’t do much like (in) England, so you have to come in and run in and bowl all day in the right areas with pace.
“From that point of view, Umesh is right up there to be featuring in Australia, because he’s got the pace, he’s got the fitness levels to run in all day to pick us wickets at crucial times, and he gets good bounce as well. So it’s a great headache to have.”