Umesh Yadav has been on cloud nine off late. The mighty talented Indian pacer was recently lauded by several greats of the game such as Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Andy Roberts. Yadav is enjoying a purple patch and was India’s leading wicket taker in the 2015 ICC World Cup. The pacer from Vidharbha opened up about the Indian team and spoke about Virat Kohli as the leader.
On Kohli’s approach towards the fast bowlers, Yadav said, “I am very much comfortable with Virat. He always asks me about my plan and if that doesn’t work he tells his plans. He always advises us to bring aggression in our bowling. Aggression doesn’t mean bowling only fast. It’s about bowling in the right areas. He tells everyone needs to show fighting spirit on the ground. If our opponents are going after one particular player, we all should stand by him. It’s the team first.”
When asked about comparing Dhoni with Kohli, Yadav sounded pretty diplomatic and said, “Both are different characters. Dhoni Bhai’s contribution to Indian cricket is immense. He has given youngsters good opportunities to establish themselves. Virat too thinks on same the line. He always stands by his teammates. While calmness works for Dhoni Bhai, aggression works for Virat. But again people misunderstand his aggression. I have always seen controlled aggression in Virat. He is very thinking cricketer. Both have different approach to deal with the situation.”
Umesh also praised Shoaib Akhtar, the former Pakistani pacer for helping him out last year. “It was during West Indies and Sri Lanka One-day series last year when he was here as a commentator. He is very jolly person and I enjoyed the conversation. We talked about the pace. Again it was more of a mental thing. He said ‘when you can bowl so fast, it’s the batsmen who should be scared and not you,” said Yadav.
The steamy pacer also opened up about cementing his place in the side and becoming a permanent member. “I didn’t doubt my abilities but yes I was disappointed not to be part of the playing eleven on consistent basis. I was thinking constantly what I was doing wrong. However, that period gave me chance to introspect my game. I wasn’t too worried about the competition. It’s always good to have healthy competition. It motivates me to do well. There was a brief period when I thought whether I would be back again in the team but I quickly erased it out of my mind. Before Champions Trophy I wasn’t worried about these things but when I did well in England and in the tri-series in West Indies, I expected too much from myself that I can do even better than this.”
Speaking about the several injuries which plagued him, Yadav said, “Every fast bowler gets injured. I suffered two major injuries—one in 2009 during IPL in South Africa and the other after first Test in England in 2012. However, a lot was made about my fitness. I never had any fitness issues. There’s difference between injuries and fitness. I have always worked hard on my fitness. I remember during a flight I met Navjot Singh Sidhu who asked me whether I am fit to play. Sidhu Paaji said that he keeps hearing from people that I wasn’t fit enough and was bowling badly. I heard this from others too.. that I wasn’t fit, which was strange.”
Yadav was extremely unfortunate last year, as he was not picked for the tests in England. It turned out to be a catastrophic decision for the Indians. Yadav spoke about the same and said, Obviously, nobody likes sitting at home watching teammates play on TV. I was preparing very hard for that tour and was disappointed not to be part of the team but I took that in my strides. When I got the opportunity in the One-dayers in England, I was keen to do well. Thankfully, Bharat Arun joined the team that time. He made slight changes in my run-up. I felt better with those changes and my run-up was smoother and more balanced. I was enjoying running in; putting less effort than before and felt more in control. I got my rhythm back and that reflected in my bowling during West Indies and Sri Lanka One-day series. I was bowling fast with lot more control and more often than not, I was bowling in the right areas.”
Yadav also praised Bharat Arun, the current bowling coach of team India. “He was India ‘A’ coach when I started my career so he knew my strengths and weaknesses. He had already studied my bowling before coming to England. Besides, Wasim Bhai’s presence in Kolkata Knight Riders‘ camp helped me a lot. He is bundle of knowledge. He didn’t make any changes in my bowling but worked on mental aspects. He kept reminding me about my pace. He asked me to just focus on my bowling not to worry about what others were saying about me.”
Speaking about India’s 2014/15 tour to Australia, Yadav said, “If you have watched the series, even the likes of Mitchell Johnson went for many runs. Yes, we could’ve bowled bit better but it’s not that we always bowled badly. We bowled some good spells too but we couldn’t maintain the consistent pressure and that’s what we need to work on as a bowling unit. We need to learn the art of taking 20 wickets, especially overseas. I am working on few areas to improve myself.”
The speedster also opened up on his relationship with fellow pacer Varun Aaron. “I think our batsmen enjoyed a lot (laughs) as they are the ones who are mostly at the receiving end. It felt good. We are good friends off the field. We have bowled in tandem together against West Indies in 2011 but in One-dayers. When two bowlers with that pace bowl in tandem, there’s no respite for batsmen. But we both need to work on wickets. There’s always competition between us that who bowls fast,” said Yadav.
On finishing as India’s leading wicket taker in the World Cup, Yadav said, “No, I never thought about it. But I always wanted to contribute to the team’s cause. That was the only thing in my mind. I knew the conditions as I had toured Australia before. I had a decent 2012 tour, which was my first major tour. When I visited there last year, I again took a five-wicket haul. I feel I bowled decently during Test series. So, I was confident about my bowling. I felt in good rhythm in the first match against Pakistan and then continued from there. Besides, we were doing well as a unit so that helped too. Before the tournament, there was a lot of talk about fast bowlers being India’s weak link but we were always confident about our abilities.”
“We play for each other; we enjoy each other’s success and support each other. We stand by each other which you must have seen during the Australia tour. Whatever we achieved in the World Cup is a past now. It’s a new beginning and we need to win more matches, especially overseas. Ultimately, you need 20 wickets to win the matches,” Yadav concluded