Kuldeep Yadav will likely play his first overseas Test against Sri Lanka and he’s one to watch out for
When Australia toured India not long ago, and Kuldeep Yadav played a sterling hand, on his debut, to help India win the final Test in Dharamsala, a storm broke out in a tea cup. A member of the Australian media party, of Chinese descent, did not take too kindly to the term used to describe Kuldeep’s left-arm wrist spin. Ever since Ellis “Puss” Achong, the West Indian cricketer, dismissed Walter Robins, the English batsman, with a delivery of this kind back in 1933, cricket has adopted the term. Robins is supposed to have said: “Fancy being done by a bloody Chinaman.” While Robins’s utterance might have its origins in unintended racism, cricket certainly has no such issues with the term. When Kuldeep first began to bowl in this style — it came naturally to him — he did not even know it was called a chinaman. But, in these days of political correctness, the slightest suggesting of racist undertones is frowned upon.
Fortunately for Kuldeep, the Australians are all safely back home, even the ones of Chinese origin who took umbrage, and when he plays his second Test match, most likely against Sri Lanka in Pallekele, Kuldeep can take the park knowing his hosts have no prob-
For me the wicket doesn’t matter. I don’t see the wicket at all. In childhood I used to bowl on cement wickets and there can be no better wickets [for batting] than cement wickets
lems with the origins of the term.
Coincidentally, Sri Lanka have a young bowler of the same kind in their ranks, Lakshan Sandakan, and if he is picked in place of the rested Rangana Herath, you could have two chinaman bowlers playing in the same Test.
And it would be quite apt if that happened in Sri Lanka, the home of Shehan Karunatilaka, the author whose fictionalised commentary on cricket and Sri Lanka by the name Chinaman was received to great acclaim. You can be pretty sure Kuldeep has not read that particular book, but his mixed bag of tricks will be tough for Sri Lanka’s batsmen to read.
There’s a bubbly enthusiasm to Kuldeep, a bouncy character on and off the field, and he is not the kind to be frustrated at having not played for so long. “Obviously there is excitement. I was excited to play my debut Test as well so if I get a chance to play in Sri Lanka I will be very happy because I have been working hard and this will be a result of that. But also there is nervousness that I should be able to perform,” said Kuldeep in Kandy for the final Test.
Kuldeep’s career is just about beginning but already he has Virat Kohli’s backing and this goes a long way in helping practice a difficult art. “Obviously if the captain believes in you then you have done half your work,” said Kuldeep. “He supported me completely in the West Indies and the way he talks to the players on the ground, the way he spoke to me in the ODIs, it felt very nice because the captain’s confidence is the biggest thing.” When asked if he was a touch concerned on bowling on an overseas pitch for the first time in a Test match, Kuldeep could not help himself. “For me the wicket doesn’t matter. I don’t see the wicket at all. In childhood I used to bowl on cement wickets and there can be no better wickets (for batting) than cement wickets,” said Kuldeep. “It is challenging because there is more bounce on grassy wickets and the ball skids a lot as well. Spinners get some advantage as well even if there is not much turn.”
It is this infectious joy of playing cricket that Kuldeep takes onto the park. And it should come as little surprise that the protagonist of Karunatiake’s novel, WG Karunasena, known simply as Wije, should take a similar outlook. “I have been told by members of my own family that there is no use or value in sports... Left-arm spinners cannot teach your children or cure your disease. But once in a while, the very best of them will bowl a ball that will bring an entire nation to its feet. And while there may be no practical use in that, there is most certainly value.”
Kuldeep is living those lines.