Kolkata, November 5: Familiarity with conditions at the Eden Gardens was a massive advantage, said chinaman Kuldeep Yadav after bowling India to a five-wicket win over the West Indies in the first T20 International here.
Kuldeep was aware that the ball would grip and not turn much as he returned with man-of-the-match figures of 3/13 to restrict West Indies for a small 109/8 en route to an emphatic win on Sunday (November 4) night.
"It is a massive, massive advantage when you have played a lot of matches at a venue," Kuldeep said at the post-match news conference. Bowling in tandem with debutant Krunal Pandya, the 23-year old snared the wickets of Darren Bravo, Rovman Powell and skipper Carlos Brathwaite to reduce Windies to 63/7 inside 15 overs.
"You know the wicket, the outfield and even the angles. That gives you a lot of confidence. I know for instance that if you vary your pace on this surface you will get your reward. It helps a lot and gives me immense confidence," said Kuldeep, who also completed 100 wickets in T20 cricket.
The Kanpur-born Kuldeep was handed an Indian Premier League contract in 2012 by the Mumbai Indians, but he failed to make the playing XI in his debut season, despite making headlines for beating Sachin Tendulkar with a wrong one at the nets.
Transferred to Kolkata Knight Riders two years later, Kuldeep warmed the bench in their second IPL-winning campaign, only to make debut in a Champions League match against Lahore Lions in Hyderabad on September 21, 2014. Since then the left-arm unorthodox spinner has become a vital cog in KKR's attack and formed a formidable pair with Yuzvendra Chahal in the Indian limited overs set-up.
Kuldeep also shared his knowledge with debutant left-arm spin all-rounder Krunal Pandya during a partnership that stymied whatever hopes the West Indies had of a revival. "He came on in the seventh over and I in the eighth. The only chat we had was that the wicket was not offering turn but the ball was gripping," he said.
Yadav came up with a special trick when he bowled a front-of-the-hand delivery at speeds clocking more than 100 kmph. Kuldeep, who had started off with left-arm pace bowling in his formative years, said the ball has been a work in progress since his under-19 days.
"It's been four-five years since I started bowling this delivery at the nets. Sometimes, in the last series as well, I bowled couple of these. I am getting confident with this delivery and using it in match situations as well. In T20 cricket you have to bowl such deliveries to break the rhythm of the batsmen... It can make the batsman pause," he revealed.
Chasing the paltry total, India survived a scare from Windies debutant pacer Oshane Thomas who removed both the openers -- Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan -- for 16 inside the third over.
Attributing to the conditions, Kuldeep said: "Sometimes, small totals like 110 become difficult to chase. At Eden Gardens, the ball swings later in the second innings. They bowled well, they bowled in perfect areas that made it really tough for us."
What a spell from Kuldeep Yadav!— ICC (@ICC) November 4, 2018
His 3/13 has given India the upper hand, though some late blows from debutant Fabian Allen and Keemo Paul have kept the Windies just about in the hunt.
India need 110 to win.#INDvWI LIVE ⬇https://t.co/62bWHZv4lD pic.twitter.com/C1NJxOuuYs
Then it was the turn of his KKR skipper Dinesh Karthik, who steered the Indian chase of 110 with a steely 31 not out. "He (Karthik) batted really well... Because the conditions were in his favour. He led KKR in the last IPL season so was well aware of the conditions.
"A small score can be tricky and needed to control himself while wickets kept falling at the other end. It was also difficult because there were wickets falling at the other end and you had to rein yourself in. It was a very important innings for us," he concluded.