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India vs West Indies | Kuldeep Finishes Rollercoaster 2019 on a High With Record Hat Trick

The performance might not be proof that Kuldeep is back to his best. But it's the perfect finish to the year for Kuldeep after a see-saw 2019.

Karthik Lakshmanan |December 19, 2019, 1:40 PM IST
India's Kuldeep Yadav

It's been a rollercoaster year for Kuldeep Yadav. It started with him picking up a five-for in the Sydney Test against Australia, which prompted coach Ravi Shastri to declare that he would be the first-choice spinner overseas.

All was well for the next few months, until the Indian Premier League 2019 turned his life around. One of the most saddening images to emerge from the tournament was that of Kuldeep down on his knees, in or nearly in tears after Moeen Ali blasted the spinner for 27 runs in an over.

It defined Kuldeep's IPL season; he played nine matches and picked up only four wickets, going at an economy of 8.66. The lead spinner for KKR was clearly off colour.

The performance in the IPL was in dark contrast to how he had gone over the previous year or two. Kuldeep, along with Yuzvendra Chahal, was among the best spinners in the world, tasting success across formats.

Justifiably, the IPL form was not a factor in India's plans for the World Cup that immediately followed. Multiple members from the team spoke about Kuldeep as one of their best wicket-taking options in the World Cup. Bowling coach Bharath Arun stressed on the need to give Kuldeep confidence by backing him rather than keeping him out. Kuldeep, along with Chahal and Jasprit Bumrah, formed India's best bowling combination and was thus an automatic starter for the big tournament.

But the World Cup was not great either, although it wasn't as bad as the IPL. Kuldeep was left out mid-way and played seven matches, picking up only six wickets. He was dropped from the India squad for the T20Is for the tour of West Indies that followed. His waning fortunes meant he wasn't the first choice spinner for the Tests either; in fact he's yet to play a Test after the game in Sydney.

Kuldeep played a couple of ODIs in West Indies, but stayed out of the T20I squads for the home series against South Africa and Bangladesh. India were trying a new approach of lengthening their batting order, and Kuldeep found no place.

Krunal Pandya's poor form with the ball meant India needed a wicket-taking option in the T20I side, and they went back to Kuldeep for the home series against West Indies. He got his chance in the high-scoring Mumbai match, only his second T20I in 2019; he was the most expensive Indian bowler in that game conceding 45 runs for two wickets in four overs.

Kuldeep went wicketless in the Chennai ODI too, and it increasingly seemed like batsmen had worked out his angles and variations.

Kuldeep needed a confidence booster after a rough year, and he got it in Visakhapatnam in the form of a hat-trick. He removed Shai Hope, Jason Holder and Alzarri Joseph in successive deliveries to become the first Indian to have two international hat-tricks.

Kuldeep was candid in conceding that he needed this performance.

"The last 10 months were very tough for me. After consistent performances, there comes a phase when wickets don't come by and you start thinking more about your bowling. After World Cup, I was dropped from the team, then I worked really hard for four months," Kuldeep said after the game.

"The T20 against West Indies in Mumbai was my first match for India in four months. I was a bit nervous as there was a bit of gap and I hadn't played international cricket during that phase. Performance wise, this hat-trick will be at the top of the list because pressure was on me and it was a result of 4-5 months of hardwork."

The performance might not be proof that Kuldeep is back to his best. But it's the perfect finish to the year for Kuldeep after a see-saw 2019.

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