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Kuldeep credits straighter run-up, increased pace for ODI success

"Rhythm has become aggressive, approach is nice, maybe my hand used to fall over but that is well in control," he talks of his technical adjustments

S Sudarshanan
Kuldeep Yadav credited his continued success in ODIs to the technical adjustments in his bowling action and his aggressive rhythm. The left-arm wristspinner is India's leading wicket-taker in men's ODIs in 2023 with 27 scalps after he picked up a five-for against Pakistan in the men's Asia Cup Super Four match in Colombo.
"It's been over one and a half years since I had surgery," Kuldeep said after India's biggest win against Pakistan in the format. "The run-up has become straighter. The rhythm has become aggressive. The approach is nice. Maybe my hand used to fall over but that is well in control and faces the batter more.
"At the same time, I did not lose my spin and drift, and my pace increased - all of which helped me. If a legspinner lands the ball on a good length, there are more chances of [him] picking up a wicket. If you are a legspinner, you tend to bowl a lot of loose balls but if you become consistent, you can succeed."
Centuries from Virat Kohli and KL Rahul helped set Pakistan a steep 357-run target. Kuldeep's 5 for 25 then skittled Pakistan out for 128 to register a record 228-run win for India. The flight and drift - things Kuldeep did not want to lose in his remodelled action - and the mixing of traditional legbreak and googly were on show as he bamboozled the opposition batters.
"After my surgery, I was out of the game for about five months," he said. "There were a lot of people who suggested a lot of things, but I did not want to lose my zip, nip or drift. After my three-month rehab post-surgery, my physio - Ashish Koushik at the NCA - suggested that I must do something [to my action] to reduce load on my knee.
"I worked on making my rhythm faster, bowled it in a practice game in Kanpur and found that the batsmen found it difficult [to face]. Then I returned to the Indian team for the tour of the West Indies but couldn't find my rhythm. Even in the IPL, my rhythm was breaking. It took about six to seven months for [the new action] to work."
Kuldeep started in fine fashion with the ball. He saw Rohit Sharma drop Fakhar Zaman at slip before deceiving him in flight to bowl him. After trapping Agha Salman lbw, he dismissed Shadab Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed - taking a fine diving catch off his bowling - and Faheem Ashraf in successive overs to end Pakistan's innings prematurely with Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf
"When I was new, I thought of only bowling naturally," he said. "But as I have played along, I have the experience of knowing which batsman plays what shot, and how he picks the ball. So, I bowl accordingly. When the target is big, you know the batsman is going for his shots, but you are also ready for it. That helps in planning your bowling."
Kuldeep, who was "very happy" with how his past one and a half years have gone, said his maiden ODI five-for against Pakistan was a "big deal."
"When I retire, I will always remember that I picked up five wickets against Pakistan. It is a big deal because they are a team that plays spin well. If you do well against a side that plays spin well in the subcontinent, it motivates you."

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo