By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Pace-bowling starved India seems to have found a genuine quickie in Umesh Yadav. The signs are very encouraging, going by his performances in the first two ODIs.
In the past, whenever a young fast bowler has emerged on the scene for India, there has been hype and hysteria about his pace. The likes of Munaf Patel and Ishant Sharma were hyped as the next pace sensations in their early days. However, as time progressed, both lost the asset that gained them the attention and limelight. Munaf has slowed down drastically while Ishant is brisk, but nowhere close to the mark he had set on the tour to Australia in 2007-08. Indian fans would hope that Yadav doesn’t go down the same road and continues to send down thunderbolts.
Yadav’s rise to the top has been very quick. He made his first class debut in 2008 and less than two years later he found himself in the Indian team for the tour of Zimbabwe. In the domestic circuit he had impressed with his pace, but it was during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2010 that he came into the limelight. His pace and nip off the surface caught the eye of the selectors and they fast-tracked him into the Indian side a few months after he had bowled in the T20 tournament.
An unsuccessful outing in Zimbabwe and the return of the senior players for India’s next assignment meant that Yadav was demoted to the sidelines and had to wait for his opportunity. He toured South Africa with the Test side later that year but didn’t get a game. In fact, one of the commentators mentioned on air during the second ODI against England that he should have played the first Test of that tour as Zaheer Khan was injured. However, the team management opted for the young Jaidev Unadkat, a selection which didn’t bear fruit. Yadav’s pace would have been a real asset, but the Indian think-tank had other ideas.
Nevertheless, the chance to play a full series has arrived. In the two games so far, he has looked nippy off the surface and has surprised some of the England batsmen with his pace. He consistently clocks over 140 which is exceptionally good for an Indian bowler. There are times when he gets closer to 150, which indicates that he has the potential to be consistently dangerous. The occasional slower deliveries add to his variations and can surprise the batsman expecting the normal quick one. He has shown the ability to mix it up and isn’t a one-dimensional fast bowler. These are signs of a thinking fast-man.
If there is one thing that he must work on, it is consistency with line and length. There are times when he is too wayward. In one-day cricket, the batsmen can use his pace to score boundaries off such deliveries. It is due to this tendency of being wayward that his figures get spoilt and takes away some of his positives. In the two ODIs he has gone at almost a run a ball and he would like to reduce the rate at which he is conceding runs.
Yadav has to concentrate on bowling in the right channels without compromising on his pace. Pace may be his biggest strength, but he needs to get it right and pitch it in the good areas. This will come with practice at the nets and proper guidance from the coaching staff. They have to ensure he doesn’t become another Munaf.
In recent months there was a talk about India needing the quickies. Varun Aaron’s name was at the forefront as he toured England for the ODIs. However, Yadav has pipped him for a spot in the eleven and is making good use to create an instant impression.
Happy days are here again for Indian cricket!
(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.")