kuldeep yadav
Kuldeep Yadav (IANS Photo)

Kuldeep Yadav put up a man-of-the-match performance in the first T20I against West Indies on Sunday in Kolkata. On a difficult wicket for batsmen, India edged ahead of Windies for a five-wicket win and a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

West Indies, after being put in to bat at Eden Gardens, were kept to 109/8, their lowest T20I total against India. Left-arm spinner Kuldeep played a big role in restricting the current world champions with excellent bowling figures of 3/13 from four overs.

That the 23-year-old starred in the hosts victory was down to the experience he has gained over the years while playing for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the Indian Premier League.

“Definitely it plays a part,” Kuldeep replied when asked if the familiarity with the venue played to his advantage. “It’s been five years with KKR. It gives you a massive advantage, lot of confidence. I know the ground, wicket and conditions. So everything was in my favour.

Kuldeep ran through Windies middle-order, picking up the wickets of Darren Bravo, Rovman Powell and Carlos Brathwaite in successive overs with the visitors slipping to 63/7 in 14.5 overs.

Kuldeep knew the ball won’t turn much and so outfoxing the batsmen with variation in pace was the key. “It’s (Eden Gardens) really close to my heart. I never felt as if it’s a new venue to me. I play in IPL for them. I feel like home here. I know the wicket, the pace of the outfield, angles. So it becomes easier, gives you confidence. The ball doesn’t turn much, it grips. Need to vary the pace to make it difficult for the batsman to score. I tried (doing) the normal things,” he explained.

After Kuldeep’s show with the ball, it was the turn of another KKR player to star. Dinesh Karthik, on a testing wicket, reined himself in and played sensibly for an unbeaten 31 off 34 to guide India home. He found support from debutant Krunal Pandya who struck 21* off 9 deliveries and also hit the winning run.

“Conditions were suitable for him (Karthik) as he’s played a lot of cricket here. He led them during the last IPL. He knew the conditions better. But it was difficult too as wickets were falling from the other end. To keep himself under control (in such conditions), it was an important innings for us. Credit goes to him,” Kuldeep said.