IPL 2019: Kuldeep Yadav's struggles ring alarm bells for India ahead of 2019 World Cup

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Confidence low for Kuldeep Yadav. Image - BCCI/SPORTZPICS.

It is fast turning into a 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign to forget for Kuldeep Yadav, with the India wrist-spinner’s struggles for all to see.

The Kolkata Knight Riders man has leaked runs at an economy-rate of 8.66 – but that is the least of the troubles currently surrounding him.

More than his growing inability to contain the flow of runs, it is Kuldeep’s lack of wickets which is the biggest cause of concern for both KKR and the India ODI squad ahead of the World Cup.

The 24-year-old is now into his fourth IPL campaign with the Kolkata franchise and has got better with each passing season. After making just three appearances in his debut campaign on 2016, the southpaw grew in prominence in the subsequent two editions where he picked up a total of 29 wickets.

This year, Kuldeep has picked up just four wickets in his nine appearances, with just one of them coming in his five most recent outings for KKR.

Hence, when the left-armer was dropped from the Kolkata playing XI in their latest encounter against Sunrisers Hyderabad, it came as no surprise.

“Definitely a form issue, he (Kuldeep) didn’t stand up for us in the previous game. That’s why we had to give him a break and get him back fresh,” KKR skipper Dinesh Karthik stated after the SRH clash.

“Kuldeep’s not been bowling as well as he would have liked, as we would have liked as well. That’s why we gave him a break, that’s the only reason that we haven’t played him this game.”

Karthik was alluding to Kuldeep’s display against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Eden Gardens where he was carted for 59 runs in his four overs while picking up just the solitary wicket.

It was a match where Kuldeep’s confidence took a mighty battering, with Moeen Ali taking him for as many as 26 runs in a single over. The defining image from the game was the KKR spinner slumped to the ground in tears following the attack by Moeen, even as his team-mates rushed to console him.

It is hard to forget that Kuldeep is still a youngster who only made his international debut two years ago, but the formidable reputation he had established ever since is now in danger of being wiped away just over a month ahead of the World Cup in England.

Wrist-spinners have become essential commodities in limited-overs cricket over the past few years, with every top international side having at least one of them at their disposal these days.

India have entrusted their faith in Kuldeep and Yuzvendra Chahal since their 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final defeat to Pakistan, with the duo going on to forge a formidable partnership.

However, while Chahal has still managed to hold his own for RCB this season despite the team’s early struggles, Kuldeep has looked a shadow of the player that was terrorising the best of international batsmen just a year ago.

Kuldeep has picked 87 wickets in just 44 ODIs for India so far.

Kuldeep has picked 87 wickets in just 44 ODIs for India so far.

Armed with a lethal and subtle googly, Kuldeep was on song to start with when India toured England in the summer of 2018. He picked up a terrific 6-25 in the first ODI to give India a roaring start in the series before following it up with a 3-68 in the second match.

In the third and deciding ODI, Kuldeep went wicket-less, with England’s batsmen playing him out with ease to clinch the series. The English batsmen, including Joe Root, had struggled to cope with Kuldeep’s variations when they faced him for the first time in their careers, but by the time the series ended, they had started to decipher his mystery.

That is exactly what is happening with the spinner in the IPL this year with the mystery no longer present. Batsmen seem to have figured out his variations and that has seen Kuldeep’s fear-factor totally evaporate.

His struggles, while fellow wrist-spinners like Imran Tahir, Rashid Khan, Chahal and even Rajasthan Royals’ Shreyas Gopal have lit up the IPL, does not bode well for India heading into the World Cup.

A mentally fragile youngster short of confidence is the last thing Virat Kohli and his men need in England.

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