Kuldeep Yadav hasn't been part of the last two T20I squads India's selectors have chosen, for the West Indies tour and at home against South Africa, but that hasn't dented his confidence. Kuldeep was instead picked in the India A side for the second unofficial Test against South Africa A, which ended in a draw in Mysore on Friday.
Kuldeep had a reasonable outing in the game, taking 4 for 121 in 29 overs in the only innings India bowled in.
"So far, I have done a good job in limited-overs format. I feel very comfortable with the white ball," Kuldeep told The Hindu and Deccan Herald. "I am not worried about not being picked for the last two T20I series. Maybe the selectors felt I needed a break. Maybe the team thinks some changes are required. I respect that, and I have no complaints. I see this as an opportunity to do well in Tests."
Stats bear out Kuldeep's assertion. After the 2016 T20 World Cup, he has been among the best spinners in the world in T20 cricket, and one of the top two Indians.
In 68 T20 matches since that T20 World Cup, Kuldeep has taken 81 wickets at an average of 22.97 (ninth-best in the world, second among Indians), and an economy rate of 7.60 (fifth among Indians). His strike rate of 18.1 is seventh-best among all spinners. Yuzvendra Chahal has a marginally better average (22.11) and a better strike rate (16.9, third-best in the world), but a higher economy rate of 7.83.
"There is no doubt that wristspinners are dominating the world," Kuldeep said. "But sometimes, when you try to stop runs, you actually turn out to be expensive. We need to work on our accuracy. You need to accept that you do get hit for runs and work on being economical."
The recent T20I series exclusion, however, could be down to India's desire to have bowlers who can contribute with the bat, as was expressed recently by captain Virat Kohli.
That might work towards pushing Kuldeep to hone his red-ball skills, where he is still in the mix, even though he has had little game time of late. Since the start of 2017, Kuldeep has played in just 10 first-class games, six of them Test matches, largely due to his national commitments and being the third spinner in a Test team that already has R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. He has done reasonably well in those games though, taking 40 wickets at 25.87, with three five-wicket hauls.
"It's hard to play red-ball cricket when you aren't consistently playing that format," Kuldeep said. "If you aren't a regular in this format, it takes time to get into your rhythm. When you are consistently playing limited overs and suddenly switch to Tests without much preparation, it will be tough to excel. You need to bowl long spells, play practice games, to understand field placements and to know how to pick wickets. It was important for me to come here (in the India A game) and bowl as many overs as possible. There is still plenty of work to do.
"When three spinners like Ashwin, Jaddu and I are in the squad, it's challenging to pick the right combination. You need to be ready to grab your chance. Of course, there is pressure because you only get a few chances, and you have to make full use of them."