Umesh Yadav: 'I need to prove to myself that I still have the ability'

"My role is out there for everyone to see - pick up wickets; and that is the role of every fast bowler"

Ashish Pant
Umesh Yadav accounted for both Chennai Super Kings' openers, Chennai Super Kings vs Kolkata Knight Riders, IPL 2022, Mumbai, March 26, 2022

Umesh Yadav is back at Knight Riders, the team he has played the most cricket in the IPL for  •  BCCI

After playing just two IPL matches in over two years, and almost going unsold in the mega auction this year, Umesh Yadav feels he doesn't have anything to prove to anyone except himself - that he has "the ability, the capability, to keep improving myself". He has show this ability so far at IPL 2022, where he has been quick, moved the ball around, and picked up wickets, especially early on.
"I don't think I need to prove anything to anyone, but yes, I need to prove to myself that I still have the ability, the capability, to keep improving myself," Umesh told ESPNcricinfo. "I am just trying to support my team and my country with my cricket in whatever years I am left with."
Umesh, 34, didn't have an easy time following the auction, where he went unsold in the first two rounds of bidding, before being picked in the accelerated auction round by Kolkata Knight Riders for his base price of INR 2 crore (US$ 266,000 approx.). It was a homecoming of sorts for Umesh at Knight Riders. He had played 47 matches for the franchise before this season - the most for him for a single team - and was also part of the team that lifted the trophy in 2014.
"When you are unsold in the auction two to three times, you don't know what is going to happen," Umesh said. "When the first round of the auction took place, most fast bowlers of my group were sold, I was the only one unsold. At that time you feel that maybe you might not get a chance this time.
"I am not the only bowler who gets hit in the death overs, there are plenty of other bowlers too"
Umesh Yadav
"And then one of your older teams picks you, a team with whom your experience has been good, a team that gave you the first feel and enjoyment of the IPL because you have won the cup with them, then definitely the feeling is great. You feel something good will happen because the same team has recalled you. I have been on very good terms with KKR, so I was sure I will get a chance."
Umesh has been on the money from the get-go this season. He started off with two wickets each in his first two games of IPL 2022 before returning 4 for 23 against Punjab Kings, for which he won the Player -of-the-Match award. He briefly held the Purple Cap too, and is still one of the top wicket-takers in the tournament. And, before Friday's game against Sunrisers Hyderabad, his economy rate was 6.60.
"My role is out there for everyone to see - pick up wickets, and that is the role of every fast bowler," Umesh said. "I am trying my best, whether I come on during the powerplay or whenever, to pick up wickets and that is what I am doing. There is no pressure on me, whatever my team and captain expects from me, I am giving it my all. I am happy with them and so are they with me. Everything is very clear."
While Umesh has been excellent in the powerplay, with six wickets in five matches before Friday and an economy rate of 5.46, he hasn't been as impressive at the death. In the only game where he was required to bowl in the end, Umesh was hammered for 28 runs in two overs, by Delhi Capitals.
Historically, too, Umesh hasn't been at his best at the death, as his economy rate of 10.79 suggests.
"A lot of people say this but it goes both ways. I am not the only bowler who gets hit in the death overs, there are plenty of other bowlers too," Umesh said. "You pick up any bowler, no matter how good he is, there is not a single bowler who has not been hit in the slog overs. When you are continuously bowling, you get used to it. But when you don't do that for a couple of years and then suddenly start bowling at the death again, then definitely you don't have that much of an idea.
"When you are consistently bowling at the death, you know where your bowling stands. You are not a machine that someone can set and presume the yorkers will land immediately. I might have given a lot of runs in the death overs but I am not alone for sure. I am not sure why but somehow I get scrutinised. Maybe it is because I am a senior bowler."

Ashish Pant is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo