Kuldeep Yadav has to perform in every game else he will be dropped, coach Kapil Pandey

At times, it seemed there was a string attached to the ball when Kuldeep Yadav flighted delivery and lured batsmen to play a big hit. He just knew when to loop the ball, when to pull it back. He had the Sri Lanka batters dancing to his tunes.

The 28-year-old was included in the playing XI only because Yuzvendra Chahal missed out due to a shoulder injury. Kuldeep stepped up and took three wickets in his spell. His wicket-taking ability in the middle over makes him an attacking option for India.

Last month, Kuldeep was dropped from the second Test against Bangladesh after taking eight wickets, including a fifer and scoring a crucial 40 in the first innings. However, the player-of-the-match performance was not enough for Kuldeep to keep his place in the next match.

His childhood coach Kapil Pandey says he has learnt to deal with being in and out of the team.

“He has understood that he will have to perform in all the matches, he can’t afford to do badly in even one game otherwise, he won’t even get these odd opportunities,” Pandey told The Indian Express over the phone from Kanpur.

“Every time he is being dropped, there will be a new excuse. He bowls too slow, he is too predictable, he is not good with the bat, and the pace bowling all-rounder (Hardik Pandya) is not fit, so he can’t play. Earlier I used to get agitated but now I just laugh,” said Pandey.

At the Eden Gardens on Thursday, Kuldeep struck in his very first over and broke the dangerous-looking 73-run stand between Nuwaindu Fernando and Kusal Mendis. A much-needed breakthrough for India. Kuldeep used the top spinners to trap Mendis LBW.

Kuldeep when bowled Dansun Shanaka around his legs. The Sri Lankan skipper had tried to play the sweep but in vain. The in-form Sri Lankan captain moved across to give it a smack but was done by the speed of the ball.

Charitha Asalanka never looked comfortable with Kuldeep varying his length and speed. Asalanka gave a simple return catch back to the bowler.

“What really upset me is when I heard he bowls too slow. During the lockdown, we worked tirelessly on his speed. I told him to perfect this speed thing. Kuldeep is a traditional spinner who believes in giving air to the ball but if the demand of modern cricket is to bowl quicker, then let’s work on it as well. Let’s not give them any excuse,” Pandey recalled.

“Imagine the late Shane Warne, the greatest of all time, had said several times that he is surprised with the number of varieties Kuldeep possesses, but it is not the case in India. Everyone will say they “like” Kuldeep, and it is “unfortunate” that he is missing out. Abhi iska kya kar sakte hai (What can we do about it),” Pandey added.

Kuldeep ended the match with impressive figures of 3 for 51 but the coach says he won’t be surprised if Kuldeep does not play the series decider in Thiruvananthapuram.

“It is possible, he was been dropped after being named the player of the match,” Pandey said.

Pandey feels with the 50-over World Cup to be held in India in 10 months’ time, an on-song Kuldeep can be a big plus in the ODIs.

“His wicket-taking ability in the middle over makes him a more potent weapon than any other Indian spinner. He should be playing more matches before the World Cup,” he said.

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