Kolkata: It’s not easy to be in the shoes of Kuldeep Yadav these days. The left-arm wrist spinner, whose career had been down in the dumps since the last two seasons, now has the odds further stacked against him as he had to undergo a knee surgery in Mumbai on Wednesday.
‘‘Surgery was a success and the road to recovery has just begun. Thank you so much to everyone for your amazing support. The focus is now to complete my rehab well and be back on the pitch doing what I love as soon as possible,’’ tweeted the chinaman bowler - who had to return from his duties with Kolkata Knight Riders in the second phase of IPL 2021 in the UAE after sustaining a freak injury during practice in Abu Dhabi.
A knee injury is often the domain of pace bowlers for the battering their landing foot takes - but Kuldeep’s is a freak case as he reportedly twisted his knee during fielding drills. A long period of rehabilitation is on the cards and there is every likelihood that the 26-year-old may miss a major part of the domestic season - which was so necessary for him to regain his own confidence levels and win back his rightful place in the Indian team.
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Life has been tough on this easygoing character for the last two years - and the injury is perhaps symbolic of it coming a full circle. A part of the Kul-Cha pair (Kuldeep and Yuzvendra Chahal), who were key weapons in India’s white ball scheme of things since 2017, things suddenly started to go wrong for him since 2019 season of IPL. The mystery element in Yadav’s bowling went missing as the rival batsmen started to pick him more easily - gradually resulting him in losing his place in the national team.
The success of Varun Chakravarthy, yet another mystery spinner with old warhead Sunil Narine, in the IPL 2020 in the UAE meant Yadav continued to languish on the sidelines for KKR - who was a go-to bowler for them for breakthroughs. Gautam Gambhir, former Knights captain under whom they won the IPL twice in 2012 and 2014, spoke out in favour of Yadav during last season.
Yadav continued to be ignored in the first half of the IPL season earlier this year as well, though he earned a call-up to India’s white ball side which toured Sri Lanka in July under Shikhar Dhawan. Operating with Chahal after quite a while, Yadav looked more in control of himself though with modest returns - figures of 2/48 in a ODI and 2/30 in a T20 International while he went wicketless in two more games.
A frustrated Yadav did himself no favour a few days before the start of the second phase of IPL when he took a swipe at KKR captain Eoin Morgan and head coach Brendon McCullum for an apparent lack of communication.
“If the coaches have worked with you before and are with you for an extended period of time, they understand you better. But it becomes very difficult when the communication is weak. Sometimes you don’t even know if you will play or not or what the team expects of you. Sometimes you feel like you deserve to play, you can win games for the team, but you don’t know why you’re not playing. Management comes for 2 months with their plans so this makes things difficult,’’ Yadav told former Test opener Aakash Chopra in his Youtube channel.
Yadav added that while he was shocked to have been benched so often in the last two editions and was disappointed with the team’s lack of confidence in his abilities. “I remember that I had talked to the franchise before the IPL but in the matches that took place in the middle no one gave me explanations. I was a bit shocked. I felt that there was no confidence as if they did not have confidence in my abilities. This happens when the team has many options KKR now has many spin bowling options,’’ the despondent bowler said.
The road to recovery, hence, is a tough one for Yadav on many fronts. While the IPL is still working out on the players’ retention policy for the mega auction for 2022 season, it’s almost a no-brainer that he will be released for the next season.
It has to be then a new beginning for one of the most gifted spinners in Indian cricket who has lost his way...