By Richard Edwards
India may be champing at the bit to hand Kuldeep Yadav a third Test cap – but his IPL franchise, the Kolkata Knight Riders, may prefer his bowling to continue to develop away from the unique glare of five-day international cricket.
That’s the view of former South African left-arm wrist spinner, Paul Adams. Famous for his ‘frog in a blender’ action, Adams, like Kuldeep, began his international career with a bang.
But his influence faded as batsmen faced more overs against him in Test cricket and his action and variations were picked apart on television. He played his final Test match at the age of just 27, having made his debut as a teenager.
Kuldeep is already 23 and had, before the final match of the one-day series at Headingley, run rings around England’s batsmen so far this summer.
It’s the first time a high-class left-arm wrist spinner has been spotted on these shores in a generation and England’s batsmen have generally played him as if he was delivering grenades rather than a cricket ball.
His 6-25 at Trent Bridge – traditionally a batsman’s paradise – stands out as the performance of the summer so far. But Adams believes Kuldeep must be careful to maintain his air of mystery rather than unveil his box of tricks to the world in the Test series next month.
“Through T20 and one-day cricket, I think there has been a revival of wrist spinners bringing different things to the game,” says Adams. “There’s that mystery to it. When Kuldeep played here in South Africa (in an ODI series earlier in 2018) he was brilliant, particularly bowling in tandem with Yuzvendra Chahal.
“They were a real force when England toured here. I know everyone is talking about Kuldeep playing Test cricket, but I’m not sure he’s consistent enough at the moment.
“And I think there’s a danger that he’ll take away that mystery in one-day cricket if he plays Tests. It’s maybe an option they could explore but I’ve seen him in the IPL with the Knight Riders and I think they’d probably prefer him not to play in Tests.
“The longer the spells, the more batsmen can sit and wait for deliveries. Look at the Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan, he was probably bowling too many variations (in their one-off Test against India). Late on in the game, they picked up a game-plan where they could structure a spell with him and that’s what it needs.
“You’ve got to understand what it’s like to play the longer version.”
Kuldeep has two Test caps already, having played against Australia at Dharamsala in March 2017 and Sri Lanka in Pallekele five months later.
In those two appearances he picked up nine wickets at just 20 – impressive statistics and figures that indicate his readiness to cross formats in England.
But with England already working hard to pick his variations, there must be fears from the Knight Riders and India’s one-day captain, Virat Kohli, that exposing him to a potentially lengthy summer of toil on English pitches could provide batsmen with a valuable insight into what makes him so special.
“It will be up to him to decide how he goes about things,” says Adams. “He needs to decide which area of field he wants the batsmen to be playing the ball and how the field is set. He can’t be leaking runs at four or three and a half an over. That’s too much, but that’s his challenge.
“Look, left-arm wrist spin is a rare art and they’re aren’t many around who can do it well. At the moment we’ve got Kuldeep, we’ve got Tabraiz Shamsi here in South Africa but not many others anywhere in the world.
“If you don’t get it right, landing it, in Test cricket then you’re going to be struggling. If your field isn’t set properly then high-quality batsmen are just going to pick you off. My advice to England would be to create some pitches that don’t turn!
“Mind you, I’ve heard it’s pretty dry there at the moment so that might be harder than usual.”
Picking Kuldeep is equally tough. Regardless of what format he’s performing in.
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