Opinion Piece

Kuldeep Yadav: Key to India's Success in the Asia Cup and World Cup

Kuldeep Yadav's record and wicket-taking ability in the middle over is impressive. He will be instrumental in India's success in the Asia Cup and the World Cup.

Dillip Mohanty
Dillip Mohanty

Last Updated: 2023-08-30

As a kid, Kuldeep Yadav grew up wanting to become a fast bowler. He emulated Wasim Akram and wanted to follow in his footsteps dreaming of bowling toe-crushing yorkers. When the nine-year-old Kuldeep joined a cricket academy in Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, his coach Kapil Pandey suggested wrist spin might be a better option given his diminutive physique. When he tried left-arm leg spin for the first time, Kuldeep was impressive. Coach Panday told him to stop trying to be Wasim Akram and focus on becoming Shane Warne instead. 

Kuldeep’s rise through age group cricket

A child prodigy, Kuldeep breezed through the age group cricket. He was part of the 2014 ICC Under-19 World Cup in the UAE. He finished the tournament by becoming the second-highest wicket-taker. He took a hat-trick against Scotland U-19 and became the first Indian bowler to take a hat-trick in Under-19 World Cup history.

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) picked Kuldeep up for INR 40 lakhs in the 2015 IPL auction where Kuldeep stayed until 2022. In 2016, his IPL debut year, Kuldeep played just three games for KKR. Kuldeep was joint highest wicket taker for KKR in the 2018 IPL.

Kuldeep made his ODI debut in the middle of 2017. In 2018 Kuldeep was the world’s second-highest wicket-taker of the year in ODIs picking 45 wickets in 19 matches. Since his ODI debut, Kuldeep is the leading wicket-taker in the format. Kuldeep has been the leading wicket-taker in a series/tournament for India the most number of times (9) against 5 by Mohammed Shami and 4 apiece by Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal since he made his ODI debut.

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Kuldeep formed a formidable combination with fellow wrist spinner Yuzvendra Chahal; the two dominated batsmen in the middle overs, their storied success giving rise to the acronym — KulCha. Of the 37 ODIs in which they bowled in tandem, India won 27.

Some of Kuldeep’s dismissals are forever etched in the fan’s memory. Kuldeep’s dismissals of one the best batter of his time Babar Azam twice with drift and turn (in 2018 Asia Cup and 2019 World Cup) in two different types of deliveries continue to remain in the memory of Indian cricket fans. Babar Azam’s dismissal in the 2019 World Cup where Kuldeep breached his defense was touted as the ball of the World Cup.

Kuldeep’s downfall – IPL 2019 and CWC 2019

Leading up to the 2019 Cricket World Cup, Kuldeep was at the peak of his form. Before the 1st World Cup match on 30th May, Kuldeep had picked up 20 wickets in 11 ODIs with two consecutive four-wicket hauls in New Zealand. Kuldeep was the second highest wicket taker of the year – 1 wicket behind the Kiwi paceman Trent Boult’s 21.

However, the IPL 2019 (23 Mar 2019 to 12 May 2019) proved to be costly for Kuldeep. One of the turning points that derailed Kuldeep's rollicking career and destroyed his self-belief was Moeen Ali hitting him for two fours and three sixes in an over in IPL 2019.

On 19th April 2019 in a match against RCB at Kolkata, after conceding 20 runs in his first spell of two overs, Kuldeep gave away 39 more runs in his second spell. Kuldeep conceded 27 runs in the 16th over in which he pretty much bowled similar deliveries without any variation in the line or length.

At the end of his spell, a demoralized Kuldeep collected his cap from the umpire and threw it to the ground with utter disdain. KKR lost the match and Kuldeep was seen breaking down with tears. Kuldeep picked just 4 wickets in 9 games for KKR in IPL 2019 giving away 72 runs per wicket.

In the 2019 World Cup, one and half months later, Kuldeep who had picked up four wickets in five games, ran into a spirited England side on a flat surface in Birmingham. He conceded 72 runs in his 10 over spell picking up one wicket. Jonny Bairstow clobbered Kuldeep for 41 runs in 25 balls he faced from the left arm spinner. India dropped him in the next match against Bangladesh and he was not part of the semi-final against New Zealand too.

Those scars run deep — Kuldeep has never been the same bowler ever since, appearing to have lost all confidence in himself after being at the receiving end of the carnage.

Since 2019 IPL and the following World Cup in England, Kuldeep’s form has plummeted to such an extent that he was not the first-choice spinner for either the national side or for his franchise. In IPL 2020 IPL Kuldeep appeared in five games for KKR picking up 1 wicket. In 2021, he did not feature in a single game before a knee injury forced him to leave the KKR bubble to go for a surgery. At the end of the 2021 season, Kuldeep was released from KKR.

Kuldeep’s resurgence

Leaving KKR, in hindsight, was a blessing in disguise for Kuldeep. KKR management were focused on grooming another mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy to partner with their established match winner Sunil Narine. Lack of form and lack of backing from the KKR setup was not helping Kuldeep’s cause. He was picked by the Delhi Capital for the 2022 IPL auction. There he found the backing of coach Ricky Ponting and captain Rishabh Pant. Ponting assured him that he would be playing all the matches in the pre-season camp. In Delhi, he found a home to get back his self-belief and rhythm.

Kuldeep lived up to the expectations the Delhi Capital management had shown on him. In 2022 IPL, Kuldeep was the highest wicket taker for Delhi by picking up 21 wickets. To top it up, out of four player of the match performances in the 2022 IPL, two were against his former team KKR.


His IPL performance got him a place in the white-ball scheme of things for India again. He got selected for the tour of the West Indies in July-August 2022 but got to play a solitary T20I. Kuldeep bounced back in the home series against South Africa by becoming the highest wicket taker in the three match ODI series. At present, with 22 wickets in 11 ODIs Kuldeep is the leading wicket taker for India in 2023 in ODIs. 

Middle over maestro: Why Kuldeep is important for India?

Former left-arm spinner and national selector Sunil Joshi recently commented that during the World Cup on Indian pitches, the middle overs will play a crucial role. Spinners who can attack and slow down the opposition’s run flow in the middle overs are going to be crucial for their team’s chances.

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An in-form Kuldeep is a middle over maestro. Since his debut in 2017, Kuldeep has picked up most wickets in the middle overs. Out of his 141 wickets in ODIs, 119 (84%) have come in the middle overs. The second best is Adil Rashid with a distant 83 wickets to his name.

Kuldeep is an attacking bowler in the middle over and has a variety or ammunition in his armoury. He is not one dimensional in his approach. His googlies are hard to read. Almost half of his wickets have come from googlies with a strike rate of 11.2 and an economy rate of 4.2.

Kuldeep Chinaman vs Googly.png

Kuldeep’s form will be crucial for India’s chance in the World Cup. Turning setbacks into comebacks is the second nature of athletes. Kuldeep has started the process. Asia Cup and the World Cup could be his redemption story.

Dillip Mohanty
Dillip MohantySports Editor

Dillip has over two decades of experience in creating sports content. As the Sports Editor of SportsBoom, Dillip brings in a wealth of experience and expertise to the role. Dillip has worked with leading sports broadcasters and sports web content portals in Asia. He is an adept storyteller and has a special liking for data stories. He has a keen interest in data analysis and uncovering insights from large datasets. He loves to tell the story with rich and compelling data visualisation.