Almost Bowled Them Over Yadav, Always Giving Back to the Game
Bowlers win the day for India, but Mitchell Starc drags Aussies to 256/9 On a crackled pitch tailormade for spinners, he had the best figures of the day
For over 100 minutes on the first morning of the BorderGavaska r T r ophy s er ie s , Australia were in dreamland. On a pitch Shane Warne described as “an eighth-day wicket”, Matt Renshaw and David Warner survived a probing new-ball spell from Ishant Sharma and the wily Ravi Ashwin. Then, Warner inside-edged Umesh Yadav on to his stumps, Renshaw got ‘runs’ of another kind, and Australia unravelled.
Having been 82 for 0, they limped to 205 for 9, before an exhibition of clean striking from Mitchell Starc lifted them to 256 for 9 by stumps yesterday. Almost predictably, Ashwin was the star, but there was sterling support from Ravindra Jadeja and Umesh, who swept through the tail to earn the rewards his bowling had deserved all season.
Each of the Australian top five faced at least 45 balls, but apart from Renshaw – who saw off 156 deliveries in two instalments for his 68 – and Starc, not one crossed 40. It was an object lesson in how not to bat on the subcontinent, promising starts squandered by poorly chosen shots.
The rot set in before tea. Steven Smith and Peter Handscomb are regarded as the two most adept against the turning ball, but it was the one that went straight on that ended a 30-run partnership between the two. Jadeja had threatened Handscomb’s pads earlier as well. This time, he was caught on the crease, with the ball evading the downward swing of the bat. Five balls later, Smith, who had nudged and clipped his way to 27 from 94 deliveries, stepped out to Ashwin and could only ondrive straight into the hands of Virat Kohli at midwicket.
Mitchell Marsh, who averaged 23 with the bat in his 19 previous Tests, succumbed to another straight Jadeja dart, this time striking the batsman plumb in front of offstump. Through the carnage, Renshaw – who had resumed on 36 not out – showed off a compact defence and some lovely strokes.
The innings plunged into further trouble when Matthew Wade was given out leg before to Umesh, a marginal call from Nigel Llong that the batsman reviewed with no success. But the real sucker punch came 17 balls later, as Ashwin induced Renshaw to play at one that turned across his body to take the edge through to M Vijay at slip. After that, it was the Umesh show. First, Steve O’Keefe was caught by Wriddhiman Saha. That made it 205 for 8. The next ball, Nathan Lyon was pinged on the pad. Again, the Llong finger went up. Again, the batsman reviewed. Futilely.
With India getting through the overs so quickly, there was enough time left in the day for Starc to clear his feet and launch each of the spinners for leg-side sixes, as the innings ended on a positive note. He reached his half-century from just 47 balls – crossing 1,000 Test runs in the process – while dominating a rapid 51-run stand with Josh Hazlewood.
That had been the morning theme as Warner and Renshaw slowly settled down. Ashwin gave them nothing to hit, but on the two occasions he strayed down leg, Renshaw was alert enough to help the ball along to the fine-leg boundary. Warner faced just 19 balls in the first ten overs, but he too didn’t let scoring opportunities slip by. All was well until came on Umesh for the 28th over.. 1-82 1-82* 2-119 3-149 4-149 5-166 6-190 7-196 8-205 9-205 Indian cricket has been besieged with all that is bad about how the game is administered, tales of mismanagement and corruption, backhanders and nepotism gathering such momentum that judges constantly berated the cricketing powers that be before passing stern judgment. But, at the recent Indian Premier League auction the other side of this beautiful game emerged.
To take only three examples, there was Thangarsasu Natarajan, the left-arm seam bowler from Chinnapampatti near Salem in Tamil Nadu, who went from being unknown to bagging a contract worth Rs 3 crore annually. Natarajan’s father worked as a porter and his mother sold snacks on the side of a highway to make ends meet. Mohammad Siraj, a rightarm fast bowler from Hyderabad, hated the fact that his father had spent nearly 30 years driving an auto rickshaw to support his family. That profession was shelved once the Deccan Chargers forked out Rs 2.3 crore for Siraj. In three seasons Karnataka had not picked K Gowtham in their Ranji Trophy team, choosing instead to plump for Udit Patel, whose father, coincidentally was a powerful man in the state association. In his comeback season Gowtham bagged wickets aplenty and the Rs 2 crore IPL payday that followed will go towards buying a house for his parents.
In a country where breaking the cycle of poverty is often impossible, cricket has had a genuinely transformative effect on the lives of many individuals desperately in need of a lucky break. And, on Thursday at the Maharastra Cricket Association Stadium, one such individual, who changed the destiny of his family by hurling a cricket ball at speed, paid rich dividends for the faith cricket had invested in him.
For 27 overs, Umesh Yadav, picked as a newball bowler, bided his time in the outfield as Virat Kohli chose to press forward with spin on a pitch that Ravi Shastri thought might be in need of a dermatologist rather than a curator. Off his second ball, Yadav struck, a good length ball on a decent line inviting the shot from David Warner and the pace causing the batsman to be just late enough to inside edge onto the stumps. It wasn’t the most piercing delivery Yadav had ever bowled, but it broke an 82-run opening partnership.
Yadav is used to coming to the party late and making it count. Growing up in Valli, a settlement of approximately 5,000 people near Khaparkheda, a mining region close to India’s geographical dead centre, Nagpur, Yadav had not bowled with a leather ball till he was out of his teens. Since Yadav’s father did not want his sons to follow him down the shafts to the relatively primitive mines he worked in, the youngster tried to join the police, but just missed the cut. This was cricket’s greatest blessing. From fooling around with tennis balls as a 19-yearold, Yadav was playing for India at 22.
If the transformation off the field was a dramatic one, the metamorphosis from raw tearaway who landed too few balls in the right areas to a potent force capable of channelling the dark art of reverse swing was more somnolent. But, in the seven years since he made his debut, Yadav’s bowling mind has undergone several awakenings. Mahendra Singh Dhoni used Yadav defensively, having him bowl wide of the stumps, drying up the runs and forcing batsmen into a drowsy stupor that cost them their wickets. Since Kohli has taken the reins, however, Yadav has been deployed as a spear, in the absence of a true spearhead in an attack that the captain changes for virtually every Test.
In the 76th over the day, Yadav was strong enough to send down a 140kmh delivery that sent Matthew Wade on his way, ball hitting pad before the bat could come down. In the 82nd over, Yadav was still powering through, Steve O’ Keefe nicking for Wriddhiman Saha to take a screamer and Nathan Lyon fell first ball a seaming delivery coming in at pace to trap him in front.
On a crackled pitch that was meant to be tailormade for spinners, Yadav had 4 for 32, the best figures of the day. How’s that for giving back to the game that has changed your life forever?
Matt Renshaw and David Warner survived a probing new-ball spell, but the latter’s wicket changed the game Yadav is used to coming to the party late – he had not bowled with a leather ball till after his teens
David Warner is bowled by Umesh Yadav. His wicket started the slide for the Australians AP