As an opening batsman, there is a target on David Warner’s back, not least because he has the capability to win games on his own. It has grown steadily larger – he is the vice-captain of the Australian team in India, and is one of the two most experienced players in the line-up. The value of his wicket is huge, and India’s left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav is coming to collect it.
Warner was Kuldeep’s first Test wicket. He became the first of two Kuldeep wickets in the Chennai ODI, and they’ve had a couple of other run-ins in the IPL that didn’t quite end well for Australia’s power-hitting opener. Based on that record – four wickets in five matches – Kuldeep is raring for the Kolkata game to begin so they can resume the rivalry.
“If you are consistently getting the better of a player, you do think that you want to get him out as soon as you can,” Kuldeep said at the pre-match press conference on Wednesday. “You’re not under pressure while bowling to that player. It’s the same for Warner; I think that he puts pressure on himself while facing me, thinking that I might get his wicket. I enjoy bowling at him, since I do so without taking any stress and along with the confidence that I can dismiss him. I come up with a proper plan as to how I should go about doing that. That’s what I’ve been doing and, hopefully, I get to dismiss him as many times as I can in the remaining four matches.”
Being a left-hand batsman, Warner might not have faced a left-arm spinner turning the ball away from him too often. Plus, he is excellent against spin in one-day cricket – only 19 times has he fallen to a slow bowler, averaging 51 and scoring at a rate of 86. His presence, alongside Steven Smith, who will be playing his 100th ODI on Wednesday, has ensured India remain wary.
“If you dismiss the No. 1 and No. 3 of any team, they’re bound to come under pressure,” Kuldeep said. “Our plan is to always get Warner out as soon as possible, since he’s one player who can change the game, irrespective of the situation.
“Steven Smith is also like that. If he hangs in there for 30 to 40 overs, the opposition comes under pressure, since he can strike any time and stretch the score into a big one. During the Tests [earlier this year], he played with us after reading us very well, and also had a good idea as to how and when he should rotate the strike. It’s a bit tough going up against him, since he prefers balls pitched in line with the leg stump. He can both play big shots and get singles. I feel it’s going to be tough while bowling at him.”
Kuldeep felt that playing against such batsmen would be good for him as a young bowler still finding his feet in international cricket, especially considering they have been asked to lead the spin attack with R Ashwin in England and Ravindra Jadeja yet to play for India since the Test series in Sri Lanka.
“We’re now faced with quite a bit of responsibility. Two young spinners are in the team, and everyone’s expectations are high. There may even be times when we end up wicketless. It’s an experience for us. The better we perform now, the easier it will be for us in the future. If we make a partnership, it will be good for both us and Indian cricket. There’s quite lot left for us to learn. We’ll mature series by series.”
A part of that process, it appears, is figuring out how to bowl dry too. “Wristspinners are always an attacking option for the captain. Sometimes I feel that you have to play a defensive game, give a single away so that you can attack the other batsman. That’s why I’m working on that other side of this as well, be it in the nets, or off the field by watching videos.”
Kuldeep also credited his seniors at the Ranji and IPL level for his growth. “When I joined Kolkata Knight Riders, there were many quality spinners around, such as Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla bhai, and Shakib [Al Hasan]. Brad Hogg joined us in the next year. It was a good experience for me, especially with someone like PC [Chawla] bhai, who was also with me during the Ranji Trophy.
“It’s good to have senior players tell you what to do next, along with giving you a read of the batsman you’re up against. I’ve discussed quite a few things with PC bhai, and I’ve learnt a lot of things from him over these three-four years. I’ve also matured since my Under-19 days, considering that after that level, you’re up against senior batsmen. In that period, you need someone to guide you and tell you how to handle situations. And PC bhai did that for me.”
India’s preparation was hurt by persistent rain, and they could only train indoors on the eve of the match. Virat Kohli, Ravi Shastri and B Arun had a brief look at the pitch in the company of Sujan Mukherjee, the chief curator at Eden Gardens, before the entire outfield was placed under covers as a precaution. They were peeled off at half past three local time as the groundstaff took the time to roll the surface in, while CAB president Sourav Ganguly watched.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo