Exclusive | ICC World Cup 2019: MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma kept motivating me for WC- Kuldeep Yadav after disappointing IPL

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByAritra Mukherjee
May 17, 2019 08:51 AM IST

Not that Kuldeep had great returns before that game. Four wickets in eight matches at an average of 71.50, Kuldeep was enduring his worst IPL, which is when the seniors in the Indian team came calling.

More than anyone else, Kuldeep Yadav was disappointed with himself. The disappointment turned into emotions and eventually culminated into tears as India watched its best limited overs spinner on his haunches looking absolutely broken, all in front of a packed Eden Gardens.

File image of Kuldeep Yadav(Getty Images)
File image of Kuldeep Yadav(Getty Images)

Not a perfect advert for India’s World Cup squad, it was far from ideal for Virat Kohli, his best spinner was taken to the cleaners. After being hit for 27 runs in an over by Moeen Ali and conceding 1 for 59 in his four-over spell against RCB – the joint most expensive figures by a spinner in the history of IPL – Kuldeep Yadav lost his place in the KKR XI and couldn’t regain it till the tournament ended. (Complete coverage of ICC Cricket World Cup 2019)

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Kuldeep was trying hard to remain optimistic but negativity was knocking on the doors, the knocks getting harder with each IPL game since that nightmarish night at Eden Gardens. “I wasn’t negative but wasn’t positive either at that time. When I was hit for so many runs in that over I was very disappointed. I knew I could get him (Moeen) out and we had a plan too but I just couldn’t execute it. The game slipped out of our grasp because of that over and that’s why I was very emotional,” Kuldeep told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview.

Not that Kuldeep had great returns before that game. Four wickets in eight matches at an average of 71.50, Kuldeep was enduring his worst IPL, which is when the seniors in the Indian team came calling.

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“...Then Mahi bhai (Dhoni) passed on a message that I shouldn’t lose confidence, I need to focus on my game and that really helped me a lot. He has always been a pillar of support ever since I made my debut. People only talk about how he helps us from behind the stumps but it’s actually the work, the advice he gives us in-between or after the matches, that does a world of good,” Kuldeep said.

Kuldeep also clarified that he was quoted out of context a couple of days ago about Dhoni sometimes being wrong with his suggestions. “That was just a joke, nothing serious. In fact, it wasn’t a statement at all, we all were laughing. I cannot make such a statement about Mahi bhai,” Kuldeep said.

‘Team India is like a family’

Kuldeep Yadav of India celebrates with MS Dhoni (Getty Images)
Kuldeep Yadav of India celebrates with MS Dhoni (Getty Images)

Dhoni was not the only Team India senior who supported Kuldeep during the tough phase. India vice-captain Rohit Sharma too made sure to check on him. “During the match against Mumbai Indians, Rohit walked up to me and motivated me a lot even though I was not playing.

“I didn’t have the chance to meet Virat bhai after that match but we met earlier in the season, he always points out the things I need to improve. We are all like a family and that doesn’t change even during the IPL,” added Kuldeep, who is currently training in his home town Kanpur.

World Cup plans

Kuldeep also assured that his poor form in IPL won’t have any bearings on his World Cup performance. “It won’t have any effect. ODIs are a lot different than T20s, franchise cricket and international cricket are not the same either. The break (during IPL) actually helped me a lot, I have been working hard in the nets and now my confidence is back,” Kuldeep informed.

Kuldeep’s job won’t be easy in the World Cup as the hard, flat batting tracks in England won’t be much different from the ones he encountered at home in Eden Gardens playing for KKR. “My strength is to turn the ball and I will stick to that. I know the wickets won’t assist the spinners much but I will try and deceive the batsman in the air,” added Kuldeep, who has fond memories of playing in England. He took 6 for 25 in his first ODI at Trent Bridge last year.

Pakistan lost their last two ODIs in England despite scoring over 350. In the 3rd ODI, England chased down 359 in 44.5 overs but Kuldeep is unfazed with the six-hitting spree and also has his plans ready. “The key is to take wickets in the middle overs. If I manage to do that then automatically there will be less pressure in the slog overs,” said Kuldeep.

India leave for World Cup on May 22. They will play two warm-up games – against New Zealand on May 25 and against Bangladesh on May 28 – before their first match against South Africa on June 5.

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    Aritra Mukherjee, who happens to be a journalist, is in an eternal relationship with food and sleep. He can, however, sacrifice both or at least the latter for his love-affair with cricket. 'He said,' 'he added,' 'he signed off' are some of his favourite phrases. When not juggling between food, sleep and cricket, he wastes time by surfing OTT platforms.

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