The 22-year-old Uttar Pradesh spinner Kuldeep Yadav, who is known for his left-arm chinaman bowling, which is a rare art that few are blessed with in cricket.
Kuldeep Yadav is currently playing for Rest of India against the Ranji Trophy 2016-17 Champions Gujarat in the Irani Cup, which started on Friday at the Brabourne Stadium in Cricket Club of India (CCI).
Ahead of the Irani Cup game, Yadav told Times of India, "I just didn't like it. The first ball I bowled was a Chinaman. I had no clue what it was. He liked it, and told me that I would bowl spin. I felt bad. I was like, 'what is this I'm doing. I like to bowl fast.' However, for the next three months, sir made me to bowl 'Chinaman.' Gradually, I developed an interest for it, which later took the shape of junoon (obsession)."
It is a very big thing for him to develop in the very few facilities and get noticed by the selectors. Yadav said, "From the start of my career, I've earned everything through hard work in cricket. I belong to a place where there's lots of cricket, but there's only a small ground (the Rovers ground in Kanpur) that we have. There aren't many facilities there. It's a big thing for a cricketer to come from there because no one else has emerged from there.”
He recalled the time with Mumbai Indians, where he had the good fortune to meet batting legend Sachin Tendulkar since then he has moved up the ladder quickly. Yadav recalls, "Sachin paaji was very encouraging. He told me that I've a natural action. Very few people bowl Chinaman. He asked me to take care of me, strengthen my shoulder. He wanted me to stay down to earth and work hard. Though I didn't get to play at MI, the experience helped me because I wasn't scared of the IPL environment when I arrived at the Kolkata Knight Riders.”
He believes that KKR has changed the youngster's life, "I was very young when I joined them. When I met Wasim Bhai (then the KKR bowling coach), I told him that he was my childhood hero. He started laughing. However, he and the other senior players at KKR supported me. I met Brad Hogg (veteran Australian spinner). It was an unbelievable experience for me he too is a chinaman bowler. He helped me a lot in the two years that I spent with him at KKR."
He further added, "I used to get smashed around, but one good thing is that I've never been afraid to get hit. I love to flight the ball. Having bowled to top batsmen in the IPL, I don't feel the pressure of bowling to anyone now. Earlier, I would get nervous while bowling to reputed batsmen. I'm more older and matured now, then when I came first into the Indian team. Spinners, as they say, spinners improve with age,"
MS Dhoni has praised the spinner for taking up five for 60 during a warm-up one-dayer against England at CCI recently. Yadav said on this, "Mahi bhai told me that I'm bowling well. He was impressed with my 'turn', 'variations,' and pace.”
The Young Turk has received a helping hand from Indian player Suresh Raina and Gautam Gambhir, as Yadav has played under them at Uttar Pradesh and Kolkata Knight Riders respectively.
He added on this, "Raina bhaiya (Suresh Raina, his captain at Uttar Pradesh) is like an elder brother. I share all my problems with him. He's been very helpful. When I wouldn't get to play at KKR, he would keep telling me that my chance would come. He keeps taking interest in where my bowling is going. If you have the captain's support, you can do anything."
The all-rounder credits Yuvraj Singh and former Australian batsman and current batting coach of KKR Simon Katich for improving his batting. Yadav stated, "Yuvi paaji believes a lot in me. He takes a lot of care of me. I've learnt a lot about batting from him and Katich."