Manchester, June 17: Kuldeep Yadav has told us many times since IPL 2019 that the horror he had in the league did not affect his confidence and he never doubted his skills. But it sounded convincing himself more than us.
After that murky April 20 night at the Eden Gardens, Kuldeep might have looked at his bowling arm and wondered: 'Where did the magic vanish?' Moeen Ali clamoured him with such ferocity that even the wicket of the England left-hander in the sixth ball of that calamitous over did not console him. It was a such pitiful sight -- Kuldeep on his knees, wiping his face with that purple towel with KKR teammates around him.
Perhaps, no bowler did appear more vulnerable in front of the camera than Kuldeep on that night. That match against Royal Challengers Bangalore was his last of the IPL 2019. Nine matches. Four wickets. Economy of 8.66. And he was dropped for the final five games of KKR.
Doubts were naturally aired. Has Kuldeep been sorted out? Has he lost his confidence? How well he can bowl in the ICC World Cup 2019 with a such a horror run behind him? Still, Kuldeep told us that he has not lost even one slice of his confidence. More self-conviction effort.
But in the first two matches against South Africa and Australia, Kuldeep proved that his words were not hollow. He supported Yuzvendra Chahal in the middle overs with a good spell against the Proteas and took the wicket of Jean Paul Duminy. Mind you, just a good spell.
Against Australia, he did not pick up wickets while bowling nine overs for 55 runs. But along with Chahal, who bagged two wickets to add to the four against South Africa, he did not allow the Aussie batsmen to break free. But they had the cushion of 352 runs.
But magic was not there. They were just good spells. Kuldeep needed that. For himself. And a bit for us too. Pakistan is not the team usually a spinner would hope to produce magic. Unless your name is Shane Warne or Anil Kumble. But in that sense, Pakistan could be a spinner's ideal team too to produce magic. It will be valued higher.
It came in the last ball of the 24th over. Kuldeep pitched a delivery around the off-stump that spun back sharply to sneak through the defence of Babar Azam (48 off 57 balls). The leap into the air told us that the magic is back. Kuldeep knew it.
In his next over, he dismissed the other set batsman Fakhar Zaman (62 off 75 balls). Zaman's attempt to sweep him resulted in a top edge that ended in the hands of Chahal at short fine leg. But the dismissal was more human, more technical -- the batsman getting deceived by the dip of the ball. It did not matter. He has already produced the magic by then.
And from India's perspective, in the space of three balls, Kuldeep snuffed out Pakistan's chase of 337 and the effort to avoid a 7-0 scoreline in the World Cup. "It was the best delivery for me of the tournament," he said and perhaps forgetting for a moment that the tournament has just started.
"It was a proper dream delivery and a proper Test delivery, deceiving the batsman in the air and making him commit the mistake. A perfect delivery. I don't think I lost the rhythm. It happens when you don't pick up wickets but I bowled really well in the last three matches," he said.
The smile is back. The magic is back. And those words sounded more matter of fact too!