Curious case of India pacer Umesh Yadav in overseas conditions

Ajit Vijaykumar 21:22 17/12/2018
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Umesh Yadav.

Fast bowlers relish fast and bouncy wickets. But not if you are Umesh Yadav.

India fast bowler Umesh has all the attributes needed to succeed as a fast bowler. He has pace, a strong action, natural away swing and stamina. And he has managed to stay fit in the second half of his career as he grew into his bowling body.

But yet another disappointing effort in a crucial away Test has put the focus on Umesh’s inability to make the most of conditions most subcontinent pacers dream about.

In the England series earlier in the year, Umesh was selected for the first Test in Birmingham. In a match dominated by bowlers, Umesh managed three wickets. Not too bad, but not flashy either.

He raised hopes of a resurgence by picking up 10 wickets in the Hyderabad Test against the West Indies. But he went back to his old habits when he was selected for the Perth Test against Australia.

India went in with an all-pace attack and on a wicket where Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah bowled grenades, Umesh had to be hidden in both innings.

In the first innings, Umesh bled 78 runs from 23 overs for two wickets. In the second innings, he was carted around for 61 runs from 14 overs without a wicket. In yet another low-scoring Test, Umesh was the weak link.

The Vidarbha pacer is an enigma. His record in India, which is not a haven for fast bowlers, is markedly better than his away record.

In 24 home Tests, Umesh has picked up 73 wickets from 24 Tests at a respectable average of under 28. But in away Tests, his record falls to 46 wickets from 17 matches at an average of 42.

There are two major reasons for this anomaly. One, Umesh is more comfortable with the Indian SG ball which offers good control with the seam of the ball and also reverse swing in the middle overs. The right arm quick naturally bowls a full length with the ball tailing in around the 40-over mark. He is at his best in that particular condition but has failed to alter his game to strike with the new Kookaburra or Duke ball with reverse swing not being a major factor.

Secondly, Umesh does not know how to play the holding role as he bowls at least one boundary ball every over. That has put added pressure on captain Virat Kohli who tried to get the least possible overs out of him in Perth where other Indian quicks were exemplary.

Umesh has been playing international cricket for seven years and his failure to master his craft at the age of 31 is ominous. It is unlikely Umesh will tour Australia again with younger fast bowlers coming through the ranks. Maybe he will be used in home Tests while senior pacers are rested.

It is frustrating to see a genuine pacer like Umesh squander the limited opportunities he gets overseas. But looking at what he did in Perth against an Australian batting without two of its best batsmen, you understand why he has fallen down the pecking order.

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