ICC World Cup 2019: Meet the man behind Kuldeep Yadav’s ‘turn’ around - EXCLUSIVE
How round became over and Kuldeep Yadav’s childhood coach Kapil Pandey turned his bowling around after a disastrous IPL
With groggy eyes Kuldeep Yadav points towards the recording button and hands over his phone. His role of being the instructor ends then and there. It was now time for him to follow orders. Kuldeep starts his five-set shadow drill with the person holding his phone giving a count 1,2,3… each time he completes his bowling action without a ball in his hand. “Now load-up!” Kuldeep repeats the same drill but now without completing his action. He loads up, stops, loads again, he does this five times. The recording stops but the training continues. Kuldeep finally gets a ball in his hand but doesn’t get to bowl from his favourite side. He is asked to bowl from round the wicket, something he rarely does and hates it to a certain extent too. Reluctantly Kuldeep starts bowling round the wicket and continues for the rest of the day.
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Pakistan’s Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman had no idea that their fate was being written in a small ground of Rovers club in Kanpur at around 7 am, some 45 days before the India-Pakistan World Cup match. To be fair, neither did Kuldeep. But Kapil Pandey – the man doing Kuldeep’s phone recording and who is also his childhood coach – definitely knew what he was doing.
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Flight, drift, turn – Everything was right about that Kuldeep delivery which sneaked through the tiniest of gaps between Babar’s bat and pad on Sunday. Kuldeep himself rated it as his best delivery of the tournament so far. But nothing was perfect a couple of months ago. The ball was not coming out of his hand correctly, there was hardly any turn and he was smashed all around the park during the IPL. Four wickets in eight matches at an average of 71.50, Kuldeep was enduring his worst IPL. The result was an exclusion from Kolkata Knight Riders’ playing XI. That’s when Kuldeep gave an SOS call to ‘Kapil sir’.
When KKR were making a desperate attempt for a final four finish minus their front-line spinner, Kapil asked his favourite ward Kuldeep to get back to basics. “Some errors had crept into his bowling action. International tours had forced him to get away from his basic drills, I just had to bring him back,” said Kapil Pandey in an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times.
“He was mentally down for not getting turn. I asked him to bowl round the wicket. I knew, with his action he will naturally turn the ball more from the other side and as soon as he got his confidence back, I told him to switch to over the wicket,” said Kapil.
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Kuldeep bowled more than 20 overs a day from round the stumps before going to England just to get his confidence back and get his arm position right. And when he again started to turn the ball, he just had to repeat the same from over the wicket. It wasn’t easy but both Kapil and Kuldeep were adamant. The outcome was staggering. Kuldeep showed glimpses of returning back to old rhythm in the warm-up match against Bangladesh and gradually blossomed to full potential against Pakistan.
Lack of turn, however, was not the only problem with Kuldeep. The pressure of T20s and constant criticism of being slow through the air had forced him to tinker with his natural style of bowling. Kuldeep had started to bowl faster but flatter. He had somehow forgotten to give the ball air.
“I want to bowl fast, he told me before IPL. But what he did during the tournament was bowl flat. If you don’t flight the ball, it won’t turn,” Kapil added.
But Kuldeep had a legitimate concern. He was getting away with his slow turners on Indian pitches but there was no hiding away from the subcontinent. During India’s last tour to England, Joe Root took advantage of Kuldeep’s slowness, and almost provided a module on how to tackle the chinaman by parking on the backfoot. India could ill-afford the same in World Cup.
Kapil once again came up with a solution. While bowling round the stumps, Kapil also asked Kuldeep to get his left-arm higher and use more shoulder than wrists when he wanted to bowl fast without compromising on flight and spin.
“He did not have a firm grip on the ball. He needed to lock his wrists and use more shoulder. That way he could generate pace even while flighting the ball,” said Kapil.
The delivery which induced the top-edge from Fakhar Zaman’s bat was not only tossed-up above the eye-level but also bowled at more than 80 km/h – higher than Kuldeep’s average speed.
Kuldeep did not get wickets in the match against Australia but his pace on flighted deliveries did not allow David Warner to jump onto the backfoot and cut or pull him behind square.
Kuldeep Yadav is certainly back doing what he does best, pick wickets for Team India, and the man behind his resurgence is sitting thousands of miles away hoping that his ward does the basics right and comes back home a world champion.