Umesh tells of his lesson in control

When he first started to make his mark at the highest level, Umesh Yadav generated excitement. He belonged to that rare breed of Indian fast bowlers who could scale 140-plus regularly on the speedometer. But the athletically built pacer from Nagpur also elicited frustration as his penchant for speed often caused him to be a tad erratic.

Umesh has come a long way since then, as also noted by Virat Kohli recently when he said, “I’ve been very impressed with Umesh (Yadav) since he has come back. He is bowling quick and has become more consistent. He is hitting the areas at a good pace and that’s troubling the batsmen on flat wickets.”

In the third ODI against Sri Lanka, in Hyderabad, Umesh showed just what his captain meant. He bowled a probing line – although the early swing caused the ball to slide down the leg-side a few times – and varied his length to get wickets off his sixth and seventh balls. He came back in the death overs and scalped two more, hence finishing with four for 53 in nine overs.

After bowling India to a series-winning six-wicket win, Umesh spoke about his new avatar in a chat with BCCI.TV.

You swung the new ball both ways. There seemed to be decent help from the wicket initially.

There was a bit of movement early on. Due to the morning rain the weather was also pleasant and the new ball did nip around a bit. I have also started to make a conscious effort of getting the new ball to swing because without movement, if I try to only bowl fast, it won’t help much. The batsman will not struggle until the ball is swinging at a decent pace. So, I was swinging the ball away most of the times while also trying to get it to shape in occasionally.

Since the bounce was good off the wicket, did you concentrate more on back of a length?

When I bowled with crossed seam, I looked to bowl back of length because it moved a bit off that length. If I bowled three fuller deliveries, I would sneak in a tad shorter one in the middle.

You seemed to trouble all batsmen but Mahela Jayawardena batted like he was playing another game. In such a situation do you look to cramp him for runs while attacking other batsmen?

Mahela is a batsman who generally takes his time to get going. He too struggled against me initially but then once he was set, he was in a different mode. Whenever I see that one batsman is dealing with me well, I try to get him off the strike and bowl to the other batsman as much as possible.

When one batsman is playing you so well, does it disturb your rhythm against the others?

That happens if you have things in your control and suddenly you bowl one bad ball, go for a boundary and the pressure that you have built diminishes a bit. Yes, if one batsman is really taking the attack on to me, I do start thinking about changing my plans and making the variations in my bowling. That’s when you are in double mind. But this happens very rarely and the instances keep reducing as you play more and more. I have now played enough to be able to handle such pressures.

All 10 Sri Lanka wickets fell from the VVS Laxman Pavilion end. Any particular reason for that and as a bowler does that play on your mind?

I don’t think there was any particular difference between the two ends. The bounce was equal from both sides and the overall behavior of the wicket was the same as well. I did get a chance to bowl from the pavilion end but I only bowled one over. Probably because I got two wickets initially from the far end, I felt that my rhythm was better from there. As far as it playing on my mind is concerned, I didn’t even know that all the wickets fell from that end before you told me. Even otherwise, I don’t think it generally plays on the bowler’s mind.

You bowled five wides today. Dhawal bowled four. What went wrong there?

We were just focusing on bowling to the field. At times, when we tried to bowl the yorkers on leg-stump, the ball swung a bit more and it became a wide.

Did Ishant’s absence from the field force change in bowling plans?

It did, because Ishant generally comes on in the middle overs and controls things, and we felt his absence there. We were one fast bowler short there but Rayudu and Raina bhai filled in. If Ishant were there, we probably have had a couple of more wickets and the runs would have dried down in those overs. We don’t know yet what exactly is wrong with him but he did have a stiff back.

Virat was all praise for you ahead of the Ahmedabad ODI, saying that you are no more the fast but erratic bowler you sometimes were in the initial part of your career. He was very impressed with the control that you have added to your bowling.

This process has gone on for a year or so for me now. What happened was that in a bid to bowl fast, I sometimes lost control and the ball slid down the leg-side. That meant I struggled to get into my bowling rhythm. I have worked a lot on that with (Bharat) Arun sir (India’s bowling coach) and he has helped me get to a point where no matter what the batsman does to disturb by plans, moves across or front or back, I stick to bowling to the field. My focus has improved a lot by talking to Arun sir.

Also, whenever I go to Nagpur, I work closely with Subroto Bannerjee – he was with the Vidarbha team earlier before joining the Jharkhand team. Now he does some coaching work in Mumbai. But he keeps coming to Nagpur and if I am there, I talk to him a lot about my bowling. He has always told me, ‘Umesh, it is very well that you bowl quick. But if you manage to swing the ball regularly, you will enjoy your bowling even more’. So, I focus on that part, even if I have to drop my pace by a couple of kilometers. If I bowl at the speed of 140-odd but swing the ball, it will be tougher for the batsman to deal with.