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Brushing shoulders with 1300+ wickets

Kuldeep Yadav on his chance meeting with Shane Warne & getting the right advices from Anil Kumble

It was around 5 PM and Kuldeep Yadav was waiting for something with utmost eagerness. He was promised a meet with his cricketing idol Shane Warne by coach Anil Kumble. Warne, part of the commentary team for the 1st Test was notified about the same and was more than willing to spare a few minutes with the young chinaman. Moments later, Kuldeep who was bowling at the practice nets, watched Warne walk towards the boundary ropes.

His eyes lit up; there was a hint of enjoyable nervousness on his face as he along with Kumble walked up to talk to Warne. This was Kuldeep’s fanboy moment. This was his moment to savour. This was his dream coming true. “Shane Warne is the reason why I started playing cricket and took up bowling. I used to bowl fast initially, but I switched to spin looking at videos of Shane Warne,” Kuldeep begins taking us on a journey of reminisce. “As a kid, I would get amazed looking at his bowling style and his ways of getting wickets. He has been an idol for me and to be honest, I still have his bowling videos on my phone.”

For Kuldeep meeting his idol was a dream. But, that it would happen so soon and in the presence of another spin legend, was just a case of pure luck, he agreed. “I didn’t know he would be here. I actually saw him on TV and asked Anil Kumble sir if I could meet him and talk to him during the tea break or after the end of day’s play. Our coach gladly agreed and I couldn’t believe that the moment of truth was just around the corner.”

Speaking about his first meet and greet with the spin legend, you can notice Kuldeep lost for words – not to forget that glint in his eyes still very much present. “When I walked towards him, I couldn’t believe that I was standing in front of him. He greeted me with a warm smile and it felt very heartening to see a legend embrace you in that manner. It was a great experience. I asked a lot of things about my bowling and the different ways to use my variations effectively. He felt very confident about my bowling and said he had been following my performances of late. Those words are like gold for me.”

Further, Kuldeep got into nitty-gritties of his meet. “I asked him about bowling techniques, planning dismissals and reading the game of a batsman. I wanted to know about things he observed as a bowler during his playing days. He spoke to me about my bowling action and the kind of alignment my body should have while bowling from over or round the wicket. Incidentally, we figured both had the same issues while running diagonally round the wicket and how we would lose out on bowling balance. He gave me tips on the same and got talking about my variations.”

Did Kuldeep ask Warne about his famous flipper? “Of course,” pat came the reply. “I want to bowl the flipper like him and he gave me his advices. He said it is a difficult delivery to bowl and requires a lot of practice. I will be practicing it in the nets along with Anil Kumble sir.

“I even showed him my different grips that I use for variations. He was pleased with it and said if I could get more command on my variations, I could become a much better bowler. He said, a chinaman is a special bowler and I should make use of this quality of mine. He gave a vision into his plans, how he would observe certain nuances of a batsman like their feet movement, grip etc. It was a very insightful chat.”

A meeting that lasted for almost 20 minutes had left Kuldeep awestruck and even more motivated to hone his bowling skills. With Kumble always round the corner, and some valuable words of wisdom from Warne, Kuldeep is certain this meeting is going to do him a world of good. “It was a dream to be standing with (bowlers with) more than 1300 wickets by your side,” he gushed. “As a youngster, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Shane Warne and Anil Kumble talking to you about spin bowling is huge and I will cherish this for the rest of my life. I never thought that I would be acknowledged by two legends of the game and talk about spin bowling to them. I have no words to express this feeling right now.” 

Anand Subramaniam
Anand Subramaniam

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I will remember the win for a long time: Harmanpreet

All-rounder reflects on the nail-biting finish in the final in WWC17 Qualifier

“It was an amazing moment when we ran the last two runs. It was a very important match for me and I will remember it for a long time,” Harmanpreet Kaur says, recalling the thrilling last-ball finish, which is still doing rounds on social media. Her heroics helped India beat South Africa by one wicket in the final of ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, Qualifiers and remain unbeaten in the tournament.

While they had comprehensively won all their matches in the lead up to the final, India’s last game was fraught with challenges. Mithali Raj was unavailable due to injury and their stand-in captain, Harmanpreet too was battling injury to her hand. Their lower-order hadn’t had much time out in the middle throughout the tournament and were required to bat in the grand finale.

Here Harmanpreet recounts how February 19, 2017 unfolded.

Can you walk us through the last over?

Nine runs were required off the last over. It was about me being able to keep the strike. I had faith that I would score those runs. The main problem was that we didn’t have wickets in hand. When we were eight wickets down, we took the risk of going for the second run and my partner Poonam Yadav was run out (first ball). When the last batter walked in I told her, ‘Raja (Rajeshwari Gayakwad) you just stay there, I am going to go for the boundaries. I don’t even want to go for two runs because if we aren’t able to make it, we will lose a wicket and the match will be over’.

Then there were three dot balls and there was pressure because then we needed two boundaries off the last two balls. And then I hit a six! After that, I told her that I am going to hit along the ground. I will look to play in the gap (for a boundary) but just in case I am not able to then be ready to run two. So, she took a start and was ready. She had removed her helmet and was all set to run, which gave me confidence.

How did you manage to hit the big six over deep mid-wicket and batting with an injury throughout?

Our physiotherapist (Tracy Fernandes) helped me a lot through the process. Before the camp, I had taken painkiller injections and the doctor recommended not do anything for 10-15 days. Physio’s everyday treatment and taping etc. helped as it did not hurt while batting. However, the right hand had become weak due to injections so that too required rehab and attention so we were doing strengthening and rehab every day. In the matches before the final, I wasn’t going for big shots because the hand was weak and hitting the ball hard was difficult. But then it was a do or die situation and I had to hit the ball no matter what. Thank God I could do it! Also, thanks to my teammates who were cheering and giving me confidence from outside the boundary.

When you have practiced playing certain shots, then even if you haven’t tried them for a while, they are still there in your (muscle) memory so I tried and connected and it went for a six. Yes, I was under pressure, but to win the game for your team in such circumstances lifts your confidence.

How did you shape the chase and what were you telling your lower-order partners?

After we lost the batters, I was nervous about what will happen because we have a very long tail. Amongst the bowlers except for Ekta (Bisht), there is no one you can depend on for 10-12 runs. Their bowlers were bowling a perfect yorker length so I told her to go only for shots, which she was confident about. I told her that I needed three-four runs from her from four-five balls and the rest I’d manage. She hit a boundary over the covers which gave her confidence as well, unfortunately, he got out trying to get away the wrong ball (a good delivery).

I told the same thing to Poonam Yadav, who came in next. I had confidence in her. She came in to bat without the helmet. I was also worried what if they bowl a bouncer at her but I didn’t create any doubts in her mind. I liked her confidence the way she came in and told me, ‘Didi you tell me what I need to do and I will do it’. I just told her to cover the wicket and bat without worrying too much. The 14-run partnership with her was very crucial.

Although you have been in a similar situation before, what was it like to lead an unbeaten side into the final and despite your injury taking them to victory?

Mithali di was warming up but she was experiencing pain. The coach then said that I would lead.It was sudden, and it was the final. Mithali di is a very important player for the team; a match-winner and to lose a big batter like her for the final and then leading the team in the final...there was a lot of pressure. We were playing without Mithali andJhulan (Goswami). But the team backed and boosted each other. We talked and stayed positive hence the result was also positive.

Prajakta Pawar
Prajakta Pawar

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