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Kuldeep Yadav backs spin for pink-ball Test: ‘Difficult to read spinners at night’

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The wristspinner on how spin-bowling variations under lights can help the visitors, and his learnings from Shane Warne

India left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav believes spin will play a role in the Australia-India Test series, particularly during the opening day-night Test in Adelaide. Yadav played in India’s first warm-up game against Australia A last week, alongside offspinner R Ashwin, but they were both left out for the second match – a pink-ball, day-night game, in which India went with an all-pace attack.

“I feel it’s difficult to read spinners at night, because if a spinner uses variations it’s not always easy to spot the seam position of the ball,” Yadav told kkr.in. “That can be an advantage for us. I have never experienced a pink-ball match outside India. So, it will be exciting to see how it goes.”

India’s combinations during the practice matches haven’t provided any obvious signs of team composition for the main series, and have appeared to be more geared towards providing match time to as many players as possible. But in the small sample of day-night Tests in Australia – seven in all – spinners average nearly 50 per wicket. With the potential absence of Ravindra Jadeja, who is recovering from a concussion and a hamstring injury, the likelihood of India playing two spinners could be slim, particularly early in the series.

Yadav last played a Test in January 2019, during India’s first series win in Australia. His only match on that tour came in Sydney, where he took a five-for. Since then, Yadav has played only two first-class matches, including the practice game last week.

“It’ll be unfair to say spinners haven’t dominated in Australian conditions; there have been many instances when spinners have done well down under,” Yadav said. “It completely depends on how quickly you adapt to, and read, the conditions. A lot of us, having played so much T20 cricket of late, will have to be patient when playing Test cricket. Mental toughness is very important. When switching to the longer format, you sometimes tend to try too many things too quickly. Wickets don’t come easy in Test cricket, so patience is the key.”

Since the start of IPL 2019, Yadav has endured an extended run of poor form and gradually lost his place as a regular in both the Indian team as well as with his IPL franchise, the Kolkata Knight Riders. In 38 matches across formats since the start of IPL 2019, Yadav has taken 34 wickets, with only two spells of at least three wickets.

But the selectors and team management have shown patience in the 25-year-old, who formed a lethal partnership with Yuzvendra Chahal in limited-overs cricket in the years leading up to last year’s ODI World Cup, besides starting strongly in Test cricket. After a lean run through 2019, where he often appeared rattled for confidence, Yadav suggested in January that most of it had come down to poor bowling plans. Now, he says, he has worked specifically on his confidence and body language – with some help from Shane Warne.

“He has shared a lot of valuable inputs about bowling over the years, but mainly he talks about mental preparation,” Yadav said. “One thing he always insists on is to always wear a smile on my face. He has told me that’s a very important virtue for a spinner. If your face shows any sense of stress, your body language goes for a toss. I’ve worked on this specifically and I consider it one of the best [pieces of] advice I’ve got.”

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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