Umesh Yadav: Reverse gear for forward direction
PUNE: Rhythm. It is an aspect Umesh Yadav likes about his bowling. He calls himself a rhythm bowler. He likes to find it asap as it helps him sustain pressure and find right areas. In the years of transition, he was India’s first-choice overseas. An inexperienced Umesh was frustrating to watch at times, even though the pace always excited. When he found rhythm — more not than often — you knew what he brought to the side.
In the 2016-17 home season, Umesh featured in 12 of the 13 Tests, the most for a pacer that season. As Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja hogged the limelight, Umesh was no less impressive. On flat decks, under hot conditions, he was who India relied on for reverse swing. When India went to Sri Lanka, he was in the XI and also in the return series at home.
Then Jasprit Bumrah arrived. In the next 17 Tests India have played since, Umesh has been part of only six, taking 26 wickets. On fast and bouncy South African tracks, he was seen as a surplus before being included for the Test against Afghanistan. He played one in Birmingham before being benched for the next four. He came back to India, got a maiden 10-wicket match haul against West Indies before going to Australia, where he played just one of the four Tests.
“This is part of the game. These situations will keep coming but what I need to do is, even if I am not playing, I have to be ready. It’s important to remain focussed, positive. I try that in whatever matches I play, Ranji, India A. More you play, the better you get. I can’t say I will play all Test matches. It’s not in my hands. There is healthy competition and everyone will get their chance at some point or the other. I am ready for that,” Umesh said.
Even then, Umesh might have been surprised when the squad for South Africa Tests was announced. He was not in the 15 and came in only because Bumrah was injured. In Pune, playing his first Test since December 2018, Umesh emerged the best pacer from both sides, with six wickets on a pitch that had something for him. He might not have found his rhythm, but was more threatening than Mohammed Shami.
For someone playing a Test after a long gap, he looked ready and not like a late addition running short of ideas. With no game-time behind him, Umesh knew his rhythm would go missing. He requested the selectors to include him in whatever matches available. Since IPL, he played for India A in the Caribbean, against South Africa A in Musuru and was part of the Board President’s XI for the practice fixture before the ongoing Test series.
Umesh has also had to keep in mind the conditions. Under a testing sun, Virat Kohli was keen to use the pacers in short spells. But unlike the pitch for the first Test, this one had more for the pacers on all four days. India knew Umesh will have a big role to play.
“There was bounce but it lacked pace. We had to hit the deck hard to extract pace. If you bowl long spells, you get tired. When you’ve five bowlers, there are options. The pacers can bowl three overs with intensity and they come on. This was a good idea. We could execute what we wanted. If we get breakthroughs with the new ball, it becomes easier for the spinners.”