How often have we seen an Indian fast bowler make significant giant strides after a couple of years of relentless international Cricket, contrary to the general Indian pattern where a fast bowler starts waning just a couple of years after the debut, exceptional talents like Zaheer Khan being an exception to this general rule; and another incredible talent Irfan Pathan falling prey to this? Umesh Yadav, defying all odds and the age-old rule, has been going from strength to strength over the last couple of years. From a scattergun who used to sporadically spread the ball all over the wicket, he has metamorphosed into a bowler with impeccable control over line and length who relentlessly bowls as per his Captain’s requirements and yields results; at times making batsmen look like a dunce, and at other times like a puppet who Yadav has the strings of. Result? Yadav has bowled at fantastic economy rates, which means he hasn’t leaked runs. In fact, since 2015 November, Yadav has given a paltry 2.87 runs per over, a wonderful stat for a modern-day fast bowler. And during this period, he has bowled mostly at home, in India, where pitches seldom favour fast bowlers.
The ripples created from Yadav’s continuous efforts have frequently and effectively helped Ashwin and Jadeja transform them into waves to wipe off batting lineups. Yadav, has, over the last eighteen months or so, bowled disciplined lines, has had great control over the seam and has consistently hit the wicket hard with the seam to produce tremendous bounce and carry. He has also had spectacular control over swing, bowling in-swing and out-swing at will. He has mastered the art of reverse swing too. All this while consistently bowling around an impressive 140 km’s/h, a quality, yet again, very rare for an Indian fast bowler. As a result, he has consistently troubled opposition batsmen and as mentioned, has frequently set up a great platform for Ashwin and Jadeja to capitalize on.
Delve into stats and you’ll realize that Yadav hasn’t been amongst as many wickets as he has deserved. Against England, he had 8 wickets from 5 tests at an average of 58, though he bowled a lot better than the numbers suggest. Against Australia in this series, though, he has 14 scalps so far at 24. His immaculate bowling has had the batsmen in trouble, with the batsmen not in control of 19.78 percent of the deliveries they have faced from Umesh Yadav, the best for an Indian bowler. Assiduousness and great fitness have enabled him to bowl 340 + overs this season, fifth-most by an Indian fast bowler in Tests in a single season. Yet, the intensity and pace are like they were when the long season commenced and have seen no discernible drop. He has been a revelation and a Captain’s delight.