Kuldeep Yadav says his maiden five-wicket haul in Test cricket and the impressive showing in the opening Test against the Windies was a result of going back to the drawing board in his bid to improve as a red-ball bowler after being dropped from the Indian cricket team during the England series. Kuldeep bowled only once during the five Test series in England, going wicket-less at Lord's before being ignored for the final two Tests. Constantly switching between formats, Kuldeep came back home and bowled long red-ball spells under the watchful eyes of his personal coach before the two-match home 'A' series against Australia. Next up was Asia Cup 2018, a white-ball competition.
"It is very difficult to switch to red ball from white ball and vice versa, especially for a wrist spinner. It is challenging because you take time to get used to it. White ball is on the harder side, grips better. Red ball wears down faster, gets soft," Kuldeep said after becoming the first Indian chinaman to pick five wickets.
"After coming back from England, I went to my coach at home, bowled with the red ball for three four days. It was difficult because after playing white ball format you lose rhythm with the red ball. I mainly focused on release of red ball, bowling slower as you tend to bowl faster with a white ball."
The extra practice helped as he picked up eight wickets against Australia A in the second unofficial Test.
He did not get many opportunities in England but when asked what went wrong at the Lord's, where he wicket-less in nine overs, he said: "In England I was thinking bowling good length but that time I was not much used to the Duke ball. The Duke red ball is harder than the SG so you need probably 10-15 days to get used to the ball."
The fact that the Test series in England came after three limited overs series in the UK, made preparation a tad bit tougher for Kuldeep.
"But I got my confidence back after taking five wickets against Australia A."
Fast forward to Rajkot, and the 23-year-old could not get into the groove in the first innings but bowled much better in the second.
"First innings I did not anticipate that they (West Indies batsmen) will attack me so much. But they were going for their strokes so in the second innings I did not fight the ball as much, kept it tight and got the wickets. They have a lot of power hitters and if you give them too much flight, you could end up leaking runs.
"In the morning spell, I thought I could dismiss them easily as they were attacking. In the second spell, I just focused on accuracy," said the Kanpur-based cricketer.
The Windies surrendered to India in less than three days but Kuldeep insisted his effort was special in what was a comeback match for him.
"It is a great feeling, taking five wickets in a Test match. Red ball cricket is very close to my heart and I want to play this format for a long time. It doesn't matter which I side I am playing against. It is only my fourth Test, so this is very special."