#INDvAUS | Umesh Yadav: From wayward to wicket-taker – India pacer has not only been among wickets but is also miserly with runs in recent times; the change has come from within, says his mentor
Umesh Yadav is the most improved bowler in the last season and a half, says India batting coach Sanjay Bangar (DNA – Salman Ansari)
The last time Umesh Yadav played a Test series against Australia in 2014-15, he was clobbered all over the park in their conditions that suited his style of bowling. As India gear up to face the Aussies in another series, Yadav will be the hosts’ most potent pace weapon on the turning Indian tracks.
That pretty much tells you about the transformation of Yadav over the last couple of years in Test cricket.
What also sums it up is the consistent decline of economy rate in the Vidarbha pacer’s bowling figures, from 4.14 in 2014 down to 3.74 in 2015 down to 3.09 in 2016. The wickets column, meanwhile, has gone the other way, from 10 in 2014 up to 11 in 2015 and to 15 in 2016.
For a long time since his Test debut in 2011, Yadav was a fast bowler who would give the team a few wickets, but also gift a large chunk of boundary balls as a package.
However, over the last couple years – more so since the start of India’s long home season last year – the boundary balls have been cut to a bare minimum, which in turn has helped Yadav bag more wickets.
The bowler has gone from being wayward to wicket-taker, the package has turned from frustrating to fulfilling.
And, the makeover has come from within.
“The change has come due to self realisation,” Subroto Banerjee, former India pacer who has been Yadav’s mentor, said. “He came and told me, ‘I’m trying to bowl certain balls in certain areas, but it is not happening. Why is it not happening?’
“We spoke about making some technical adjustments and fine-tuning his skills. We did it, and it worked very well. He’s physically very fit, which allows him to get those changes done. The change came a bit late, but it’s good that it has finally come,” he added.
It’s come very well.
Yadav is now Virat Kohli’s go-to bowler for a wicket either early in the innings or when his spinners are unable to break a partnership. Be it Martin Guptill with the new ball in Kanpur or Joe Root with the old in Rajkot or JP Duminy in Delhi, Yadav has given his captain reasons to smile more often than not.
“Ever since the Delhi Test match against South Africa, we have seen him (Umesh) giving the breakthroughs that the team requires,” India batting coach Sanjay Bangar said during the Bangladesh Test last week. “That’s why someone like Umesh stands out because I believe that he’s the most improved bowler in the last season-and-a-half.”
A major factor for that improvement has been the change of guard in Indian cricket, with head coach Anil Kumble’s expertise of getting the best out of the bowling resources taking complete shape.
“Umesh is adapting quickly now, he is changing rapidly,” Banerjee said. “It’s also good that Anil Kumble came in, he did a great job with him along with the backing that he gets from Virat. He was being backed earlier also, but now he’s showing his true ability,” he added.
Apart from working on his skill sets, the 29-year-old also knew that he had to get another aspect right: his mind. He could no longer afford to run in with a sense of self-doubt.
“His mind is in a good space now. Mentally, you have to be in the best frame, even if you are correct physically. Overall, he is in a good mental space. His thought-processes are right. That is making a lot of difference to his bowling, and that’s why he is bowling so well,” Banerjee said.
The 48-year-old Banerjee, who played one Test and six ODIs for India in the early 1990s, believes there is more to come from his ward, starting with the Australia series.
“He can only get better from here. We can expect a lot from him now. Even the Australian batsmen must be thinking of playing him off in his first spell or whenever he comes to bowl. A year ago, batsmen would think about getting the most runs out of him when he would come on to bowl. Now, they think of surviving his spell,” he said.
“In the last one-and-a-half years, things are going exactly how he wanted it to go. Everything has fallen into place for him. The jigsaw puzzle is getting solved.”