India’s mystery spinner is coming for Australia

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    India's Kuldeep Yadav appeals. (David Davies/PA via AP)

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    India will arrive in Australia this summer with generous hopes for their four-Test series despite their bowlers being bulldozed on their last two tours here. This time, it could be a left-arm mystery spinner who holds the key for India.

    Kuldeep Yadav, at just 23 years old, is currently running amok in England, dominating the English batsmen who are clueless about the variety of deliveries which fizz out of his hand.

    In his latest star turn in England yesterday, Kuldeep exposed England’s enduring weakness against wrist spin as he took an incredible haul of 6-25 on a road of a pitch at Nottingham.

    In five white ball matches on that tour – three against England and two against Ireland – Kuldeep has grabbed the astonishing figures of 18 for 120. That’s no mere purple patch either as you can see from Kuldeep’s career record across all three international formats – 78 wickets at 16.

    I have seen a lot of Kuldeep in all formats and, to me, he looks set to be world cricket’s next great spinner, a bowler capable of dominating in all three formats.

    Many Australian cricket fans will not be familiar with him, despite the young spinner having already flummoxed Australia in all three formats. That’s because his appearances against Australia all have come overseas and during Australian cricket’s off-season, a combination which ensures that few Aussie followers pay attention.

    On Test debut against Australia in Dharamsala last year, Kuldeep was India’s best bowler on day one, taking 4-68 as Australia were dismissed for a below-par total of 300. He produced sensational deliveries to dismiss Peter Handscomb and Glenn Maxwell – the first a leg break and the second a googly.

    India's Kuldeep Yadav

    India’s Kuldeep Yadav (David Davies/PA via AP)

    What’s most significant about that performance, in the context of the coming Test summer, is that Kuldeep excelled on a hard, fast pitch that was far more typically Australian than Indian in nature. This was no dustbowl, but rather a deck which offered good pace and carry for the quicks.

    That single performance showed Kuldeep’s style of bowling has the potential to be effective in Australian conditions. What we already know is that Kuldeep’s main rival for a Test spot in Australia, off-spinner Ravi Ashwin, has an approach which does not work in Australia. Ashwin has toured Australia twice and, across six Tests, has the awful figures of 21 wickets at 55.

    India’s selectors often get swayed by Ashwin’s all-round ability as he offers a lot with the bat. But purely on bowling Kuldeep is clearly the better option for the Tests in Australia.

    Kuldeep is the most complete wrist spinner to grace international cricket since Shane Warne retired. He has every attribute of a champion wrist spinner – composure, confidence, accuracy, variety, deceiving flight, and the ability to rip his deliveries, rather than just roll them out like most spinners we see these days.

    International cricket is now packed with spinners who get few revolutions on their deliveries. There are no spinners like Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan and Graeme Swann who put ferocious work on the ball, causing it to whir through the air like the blades of a helicopter.

    Kuldeep isn’t quite in their category in terms of the revs he impacts on his deliveries, but he’s pretty much in a league of his own in the modern game. Kuldeep really gives his stock ball a rip, unlike other talented wrist spinners such as England’s Adil Rashid, Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan, Australia’s Adam Zampa and Pakistan’s Shadab Khan.

    Because this stock delivery is spun so hard, and turns sharply, it increases the potency of his biggest weapon – his array of googlies. Yes, that’s right, Kuldeep has not just one googly but a clutch of them.

    He possesses the standard wrong ‘un, the one which is released from the back of the hand. Kuldeep also has another which he bowls with just one finger on top of the ball, instead of the standard two, which allows him to impart googly-style turn without having to turn his wrist around as far.

    The most perplexing one, however, is the googly he somehow delivers from the side of his hand. The clue for a hawk-eyed batsman facing wrist spin is that the leg break will come from the side of the hand and the googly from the back of the hand.

    What does the batsman do, then, when they face a bowler who can deliver both a leg break and a googly from the side of the hand? How can they possibly pick the direction of the spin before the ball pitches? Kuldeep bowls many of his deliveries cross-seam to stop the batsman from judging the spin direction by reading the seam position through the air.

    This leaves batsmen to either judge the spin off the pitch – a heinously-difficult act when the ball is pitched up – or to get to the pitch of the ball and smother the turn. The English batsmen have been flummoxed by this rare proposition.

    So too could Australia’s batsmen be if the Indian selectors are brave enough to select Kuldeep ahead of Ashwin for this summer’s Test series.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (58)

    • July 14th 2018 @ 8:18am
      Liam said | July 14th 2018 @ 8:18am | ! Report


      It’s a bit hard to get much footage of him bowling; it’s all wicket getting deliveries on youtube. He seems to get a lot of his wickets with his googlies, but his toppies also dangerous, considering lefties are really not used to left arm wrist spinners being an LBW threat.

      My question to you is, is he as sidespin or a overspin bowler with his stock delivery?

      Googlies and toppies generally put more overspin on the ball anyway, but with his stock delivery I really couldn’t tell, because on the clips I watched he took maybe one-two wickets with his stock ball (one a beautiful delivery which is the left handed wrist spinner’s version of the ball of the century, drifted across, batsman played inside the line only to watch the ball grip and come back to know the top of off).

      He could be very impressive, but as we well know by now if you put more sidespin on the ball here you’re in for a rough time.

    • July 14th 2018 @ 9:06am
      Paul said | July 14th 2018 @ 9:06am | ! Report

      Kuldeep is not a “mystery” spinner. He bowls left arm off breaks with wrong uns and top spinners thrown in. There are so few of this type in world cricket, and so few who can land the ball as well as he does, it’s no wonder players are still adjusting to playing him.

      I also wonder how much first class cricket you’ve seen him play Ronan? According to the stats, he’s only taken 90 wickets at 31.00 and hasn’t bowled a lot of deliveries for a spinner. He’s started well in Test, no argument, but it’ll be interesting to see how he goes in Tests once guys work him out.

      I hope he does play. India shouldn’t need another batsman by playing Ashwin, given the top order they currently have. It’s just a shame Warner and Smith won’t be around to play Kuldeep, that would have been a great contest.

      • July 14th 2018 @ 10:05am
        Don Freo said | July 14th 2018 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        Wow. So you are saying he bowls off-breaks? That’s the opposite you Ronan’s description.

        • July 14th 2018 @ 10:21am
          Liam said | July 14th 2018 @ 10:21am | ! Report

          Orthodox and wrist spin; off break and leg break.

          The first two is the style of the thing – whether the ball is imparted spin from the finger (orthadox) or the wrist. Second is the direction it turns; off breaks spin in to the right hander, leg spins away.

          He’s a left-handed wrist spinner, who bowls over the wicket, and turns the ball back in to the right hander- unless it’s a googly. He’s an off break bowler.

          Not sure what’s not to understand.

          • Roar Rookie

            July 14th 2018 @ 11:13am
            Drew said | July 14th 2018 @ 11:13am | ! Report

            if he is left handed and uses wrist spin then the ball turning into a right hand bat is still a leg break. No-one calls the balls’ Warnie turned into the pads of Left Hand bats “off breaks”.

          • July 14th 2018 @ 11:18am
            Don Freo said | July 14th 2018 @ 11:18am | ! Report

            He is a leg spinner. That’s what wrist spinners do. Off spinners are finger spinners. It is very clear. You can’t gauge it from the batsman’s position because that depends on whether he bats left or right hand.

            Wrist spin = leg spinner.
            Finger spin = off spinner.

            • Columnist

              July 14th 2018 @ 12:25pm
              Ronan O'Connell said | July 14th 2018 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

              What, Kuldeep is an “off break” bowler? Well that changes my whole story – can I re-write it?!

              • July 14th 2018 @ 12:50pm
                Nudge said | July 14th 2018 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

                Liam Liam Liam

              • July 14th 2018 @ 12:54pm
                Paul said | July 14th 2018 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

                perhaps you should. The quotes below come straight off Google

                Kuldeep Yadav is an Indian cricketer who plays for India and for Uttar Pradesh in domestic. A slow left-arm chinaman bowler…… Wikipedia

                When you Google Chinaman bowler, you get

                Left-arm unorthodox spin, also known as slow left arm chinaman, is a type of left arm wrist off spin bowling in the sport of cricket.

              • July 14th 2018 @ 2:20pm
                Don Freo said | July 14th 2018 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

                You might be better paying attention to people who know cricket. If that is what Google says, Google is wrong.

              • July 15th 2018 @ 7:36am
                Liam said | July 15th 2018 @ 7:36am | ! Report

                I find it interesting that, instead of answering my very genuine question above, people have jumped on board to criticise and shake their head when they think they’re right. Speaks volumes for the level of discourse around here.

              • July 15th 2018 @ 10:24am
                Don Freo said | July 15th 2018 @ 10:24am | ! Report

                I think you’ll find it’s Paul and Google with whom there is argument, although, “He’s an off-break bowler” doesn’t sound like a simple question. It sounds like the beginning of an argument.

                In the article, Ronan even mentioned his armory of googlies. You are challenging that. Lead with your chin and you can anticipate a left jab or two (although you might call it a right cross).

              • Roar Guru

                July 15th 2018 @ 2:36pm
                Pom in Oz said | July 15th 2018 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

                I’m with Paul & Liam on this one. A left arm wrist spinner’s stock ball is an off break. The mirror image of Warne the leggie. However, Warne’s googly turns from off to leg, while Yadav’s turns from leg to off, referred to as a chinaman googly. To be honest, I can’t believe you don’t know this. Don obviously doesn’t even realise he bowls left handed. To say a wrist spinner is a leg spinner is ridiculous, as it depends if they’re left or right handed, i.e. right handed wrist spin is a leg break and left hand wrist spin is an off break.

              • July 20th 2018 @ 9:20am
                TheCunningLinguistic said | July 20th 2018 @ 9:20am | ! Report

                Well then, all three of you would be wrong. A left arm wrist spinner is just that, they are not the same as a right arm off-break bowler. Staggering that you would think that…

          • July 14th 2018 @ 12:46pm
            Tanmoy Kar said | July 14th 2018 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

            Kuldeep is basically a left arm wrist leg-spinner (chinaman) bowler, a mirror image of Shane Warne.

            • Roar Guru

              July 14th 2018 @ 3:21pm
              Rellum said | July 14th 2018 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

              Apart from Warne turning it a WHOLE lot more and generally being a much better bowler. I have seen a few highlights but I am struggling to see many with a lot of turn. But I will trust Ronan on that one.

              • Columnist

                July 14th 2018 @ 3:34pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | July 14th 2018 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

                So that means Agar and O’Keefe bowl leg breaks?

              • July 14th 2018 @ 3:51pm
                Don Freo said | July 14th 2018 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

                Looking forward to Ashton rolling down a flipper or two…or a wrongun.

              • Roar Guru

                July 14th 2018 @ 8:22pm
                Rellum said | July 14th 2018 @ 8:22pm | ! Report

                Oh, ha.

              • Columnist

                July 14th 2018 @ 9:04pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | July 14th 2018 @ 9:04pm | ! Report

                Rellum, Kuldeep doesn’t turn his leg break nearly as much as Warne but he does really give it a rip and gets it to dip and drift sharply.

                His dismissal of Handscomb bowled through the gate at Dharamsala in the 4th Test was a classic dismissal – almost a mirror image of Warne bowling Strauss at the MCG to get his 700th Test wicket.

              • Roar Guru

                July 15th 2018 @ 12:12pm
                Rellum said | July 15th 2018 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

                If he can bowl even half as well as Warnie did in the second part of his career, when Warnie didn’t rip it nearly as much and had more subtlety, he will be a world class bowler for a long time.

    • Roar Guru

      July 14th 2018 @ 10:26am
      Ryan H said | July 14th 2018 @ 10:26am | ! Report

      I know two spinners in Aus conditions is somewhat rare, but could they pick both given Pandya is a third quick at 6-7?

    • July 14th 2018 @ 11:28am
      Tanmoy Kar said | July 14th 2018 @ 11:28am | ! Report

      The Indian Test squad for the 5 matches Series hasn’t yet been declared. Normally Kuldeep is not a part of the Test squad, Ashwin and Jadeja are. But the way Kuldeep is mesmerizing the English batsmen, he should be included and should play along-with Ashwin.

      • Columnist

        July 14th 2018 @ 12:33pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | July 14th 2018 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

        I agree Tanmoy, India have to play Kuldeep in the Tests against England given the way he’s flummoxed three of their key Test batsmen – Root, Bairstow and Stokes.

        I’d imagine he’d give Cook fits, too.

        This is the Indian Test team I’d pick to play in England (if it’s a particularly green pitch swap out Ashwin for an extra batsman).

        1. Vijay
        2. Dhawan
        3. KL Rahul
        4. Kohli
        5. Rahane
        6. Saha
        7. Ashwin
        8. Bhuvneshwar
        9. Kuldeep
        10. Shami
        11. Ishant

        • July 14th 2018 @ 12:52pm
          Tanmoy Kar said | July 14th 2018 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

          You have included Rahul in place of Pujara? Probably Saha and Shami are not fit enough for pecking. Dinesh Karthik may play in place of Saha and Umesh Yadav in place of Shami.

          • Columnist

            July 14th 2018 @ 1:18pm
            Ronan O'Connell said | July 14th 2018 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

            Pujara is a liability outside of Asia.

            He was a massive flop in county cricket over the past few months, averaging just 14 with the bat from 12 innings for Yorkshire.

            And Pujara’s averaged just 27 with the bat from his 17 Tests in Eng/Aus/SA/NZ.

        • July 18th 2018 @ 8:17am
          George said | July 18th 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

          Two tons in a row from flummoxed Root.

          • July 18th 2018 @ 9:15am
            JimmyB said | July 18th 2018 @ 9:15am | ! Report

            And Kuldeep went wicketless whilst Rashid was man of the match. Gone a bit quiet on here this morning, no footage, no articles, a couple of comments… oh well, to be expected.

            • July 18th 2018 @ 7:19pm
              George said | July 18th 2018 @ 7:19pm | ! Report

              No surprise there.

    • July 14th 2018 @ 12:21pm
      George said | July 14th 2018 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

      No matter – your man Shaun Marsh is a spin specialist.

      • July 14th 2018 @ 12:24pm
        Don Freo said | July 14th 2018 @ 12:24pm | ! Report


      • Roar Guru

        July 14th 2018 @ 12:47pm
        Ryan H said | July 14th 2018 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

        Is it sarcasm or not haha? Because he is actually a pretty solid player of spin

        • July 15th 2018 @ 10:34am
          George said | July 15th 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

          Relative to playing pace I suppose. Being a Marsh he can dine out on his debut ton in SL for another 10 years or so.

          • July 15th 2018 @ 11:14am
            Roger said | July 15th 2018 @ 11:14am | ! Report

            That’s at least 1 more in spinning conditions than your boy Usman…

            • July 16th 2018 @ 1:10pm
              George said | July 16th 2018 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

              Given a fair run, it’d be otherwise. Marsh is the kind of guy who makes 17 runs in a home Test series but won’t be banished.

              • Roar Guru

                July 17th 2018 @ 10:59am
                Ryan H said | July 17th 2018 @ 10:59am | ! Report

                Except when he did make just 17 runs across a four-match home series, he WAS dropped and didn’t play another test for the next two years.

              • July 18th 2018 @ 8:13am
                George said | July 18th 2018 @ 8:13am | ! Report

                And should never have been recalled.

    • Roar Rookie

      July 14th 2018 @ 12:39pm
      Tom VDS said | July 14th 2018 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

      It will be very interesting to see firstly if India picks him ahead of Ashwin. As you say Ronan, I think India still loves Ashwin’s ability to contribute with the bat, and by batting him at 7 it could potentially allow for the second spinner, particularly in Adelaide and Sydney..

      If he does play, it will be interesting to see how Kuldeep does in Australian conditions. There was a lot of hype around Yasir Shah two summers back when he was in the top few bowlers in the world and said to be suited to Australian conditions, yet he was whacked all over Australia in those three tests, taking 8 wickets at 84. Not many spinners come here and thrive…

      • Columnist

        July 14th 2018 @ 1:02pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | July 14th 2018 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

        You’re right Tom, it’s the toughest task any bowler faces in Test cricket – being a visiting spinner in Australia.

        I remember crunching the stats a few months ago and finding that visiting Test spinners had averaged 60+ in Australia over the past five years.

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