Indian cricket has witnessed a pace revolution in the last two-and-a-half years. The fast bowlers have been consistent, quick and incisive, so much so that in 2018, during the Test matches in Johannesburg and Perth, India did not field a single frontline spinner.
Umesh Yadav is part of the core red-ball group which also includes Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami. And the 32-year-old believes the depth in India’s pace resources has been built with a captain who likes fast bowlers and believes in them. “Virat is a fast bowler’s captain,” Umesh told Sportstar from the UAE, where he is training with the Royal Challengers Bangalore squad for IPL 2020.
“His (Virat’s) aggressive brand of captaincy suits the team in all formats. Fast bowlers, especially in Twenty20 cricket, enter with an aggressive mindset. It is about maintaining an attacking attitude and not a defensive one. When you are always looking to take wickets, your head is in the right place,” he said.
Virat Kohli and Umesh Yadav celebrate a dismissal during the Pune Test against South Africa in 2019. – VIVEK BENDRE
RCB is currently undergoing training at the International Cricket Council (ICC) Academy in Dubai, where the conditions could bring spin into the equation. Umesh feels the bowling group should be prepared to adjust and plan accordingly.
“Going by the number of net sessions we’ve had here so far, the practice wickets have been a bit sticky, slightly on the flatter side,” said Umesh, adding: “If there is no seam or swing movement and there is no pace off the pitch, then you need to hit the deck hard to extract pace. It depends on what kind of surfaces we get once the tournament begins: if it’s medium but slow and gets slower as the match progresses, then we have to adapt accordingly.”
Umesh kept himself in shape during the lockdown by focussing on sprinting and indoor training. “Your training schedule in the lead-up to a competitive match matters a lot… I am satisfied with my preparation. The regular exercise sessions at home have helped maintain many facets of my physical fitness. For a fast bowler, balance and rhythm are critical. So, I also ran a lot to master those aspects. Another four to five sessions, and I will be gearing up towards match intensity,” he said.
Umesh praised RCB head coach Simon Katich and team director Mike Hesson for briefing the players about their roles. “I’ve worked with Katto during our time at Kolkata Knight Riders. Both him and Mike are very calm and chilled out. It’s my first season with Mike. As team director, he has done a good job of assigning each member of the team clear-cut individual roles. So definitely, this kind of man management early in the campaign becomes the cornerstone of success,” he said.
Umesh doesn’t refer to himself as a bowling all-rounder yet, but as a player with a first-class century and ability to clear the ropes. His batting stood out over the course of the five Test matches, three against South Africa and two against Bangladesh, in the last home season. He, however, is not reading too much into those performances. “In the home Tests against South Africa and Bangladesh, I batted with a lot of freedom. I had the license to do exactly as I wanted when batting.”
“In Twenty20 cricket, lower down, if I can hit two sixes off the four balls that I face, it’s good for the team. It adds to the overall total, and given the narrow margins of victory in this format, it [extra runs] will be great for the team. So, it is about trying to do whatever my team needs,” he said.