Maturity came after marriage, says Umesh Yadav

Umesh Yadav has grown leaps and bounds as a bowler over the years. Umesh Yadav has grown leaps and bounds as a bowler over the years.

It took some prodding from wife Tanya and vital tweaking in bowling to find the correct length and focus for Umesh Yadav as he transformed from erratic tearaway to dependable spearhead. Bharat Sundaresan listens in as India’s latest pace sensation traces back his run-up to success…

You have found new ways to take wickets this season, intimidating the Aussies in Dharamsala to beguiling them with cutters in Bangalore.

I have been working really hard over the last 10-12 months. The first thing I was focusing on was getting consistent with my line and length. To ensure that I land the ball exactly where I want to land the ball at will. Then it came to getting batsmen out. These days I keep an eye on batsmen a lot more, observe their footwork closely. I have also started using the crease to develop new angles of delivery this season, especially the last 6-7 months. I first study the batsman, to see what ball is troubling him, which ones he’s comfortable against. On that basis, I make my plans. So if I see he’s playing me off the back-foot then I know I have to keep targeting him with full-length deliveries. Because he’s waiting to play me off the backfoot, and a full ball will trouble him.

That’s how I plan. Then there are batsmen who stand covering the off-stump, so I have to get them out by using a wide angle. If I keep bowling from close to the stumps every ball, they’ll get used to me. So I make sure to bowl from wide of the crease. But when I can bowl from the corner of the crease, and then get the bowl to swing away from the right-hander from that angle, that becomes difficult for him. He will play with the straight bat, and will get into trouble. Anil bhai (Kumble) and Sanjay bhai (Bangar) have been of great help. Sanjay bhai was the one who told me about working with these angles. He said you have pace and everything else. But if you start using the angle then you will become more dangerous with that variation. It took me 4-6 months to get comfortable with it.

Former bowling coach Bharat Arun said you like to practice something new with the action before feeling comfortable…

I tried it out in the nets. You have to change your run-up a little. Different bowlers try different ways to do it. Some just run in straight like they do normally and then jump wide, others start running in from wide. Some corner to corner. It all depends on your jump and landing. It takes some time for your muscles to get used to that movement. Initially there will be some issues. Kabhi aapka angle galat ho jaata hai. You want to pitch it somewhere, but you end up sliding it wide. That’s why you need to practise it a lot before trying it in the match.

The Umesh Yadav of old would bowl a lot of great spells but wasn’t known to be someone who thinks batsmen out…

These things come through when you start playing a few matches on the trot. Your confidence keeps improving, and you get more match experience. So once I started playing matches continuously, I started having conversations with Sanjay bhai and Anil bhai, to get an idea. They told me when you are bowling, “batsmen ke upar focus rakha kar ki woh kya kar raha hai“. From then I started studying batsmen a lot more closely, and their movement, like are they going from leg-stump to off-stump or front to back.

So is this more satisfying, to think batsmen out?

Definitely. When you are bowling to get a batsman out with a plan it’s a lot more interesting and challenging as compared to just trying to get him out. It’s a lot of fun, and I’m enjoying it. There really isn’t one specific wicket that I planned and succeeded that I rate above the rest. I have always been someone who believes in taking wickets. That’s what gets me going. I don’t count kisko out kiya, or kaise out kiya. Whether it is a tail-ender or a top-order batsman, it’s the wicket that counts.

Yes, there doesn’t seem to be a bias in terms of who you’re dismissing. 16 righties and 14 lefties, and 16 out of 30 have been in the top 4, and 12 in the tail. But what’s been amazing is the number of times you have come on in a spell taken a wicket, Matthew Wade in Pune and Adil Rashid in Chennai come to mind.

Fitness is of course the key. But it’s more about when a bowler is enjoying his bowling and is confident about what he’s doing, things start happening. It’s all a result of the hard work that I have put in over the last 10-12 months. These days, I don’t feel any pressure. It’s not like oh, ab wicket lena hi hai come what may. It’s just that I know taking a wicket is my role and it’ll happen. A fast bowler will always stick to the best ball, which he knows will get him that wicket. I have the confidence that if I bowl that ball, which for me is on a length at full pace, often enough, I can get any batsman out in any spell, on any pitch and in any situation.

You keep talking about the hard work in the last two years. How has it been different to before?

Before that I used to play on and off, and often I wasn’t getting wickets. I was left out of a Test, I was left out of a certain series. I never felt settled. But I think the maturity that I have now came after I got married. Then you start thinking about the other person, and know that there’s someone there for you always. Then you start thinking about the future more practically. Once my wife (Tanya Wadhwa) came into my life and the first 2-3 years (they married in 2013) she saw the ups and downs, she started pushing me harder. She was like yes you’re doing well and trying hard, but I think you can try harder and do better. She kept saying, “Umesh you have that ability. I think you’re not doing as much as you can.” To the extent that when there were times when I felt like let me just take a break today from training and sit at home, she’ll say, “Koi chutti nahi. Practice jaani hai toh jaani hai.” So I couldn’t bunk or even go late for practice. She was like “tum training karke aao phir free time mein jo karna hai karo“. This is your job. This is your passion, pursue it. Hearing those words from someone so close and to see her support made me realize again that cricket is my life. Sab ki nazaron mein toh theek hai, uski nazaron mein apne ko iss kaabil banao ki she thinks yes my husband deserves this and he’s got it. That was the starting point of the transformation. Those words always remain etched in my head.

It was a good fun some where in between the Hills Mulshi @y_umesh 😊 — tanya umesh yadaav (@tanya_wadhwa) 27 February 2017

So she continues to push you then?

Yes, I don’t think I’ve reached the level at which she wants to see me. She wants people to come up and say Umesh is a world-class bowler. I want to keep working hard to reach a point where she gets to hear that.

She’s in the fashion line . So when you look into the mirror, you don’t just see a better fast bowler but a more stylized person?

She’s in fashion retail. And she takes the call on most things. Even when I wanted to renovate my house, I just let her take all the calls. I can say that it’s not just my bowling that has improved but also my style and lifestyle that has improved since she came in. I have always had a passion for shoes and clothes, but these days my wife helps me a lot in my choices.

How did you two meet?

We met through a common friend. We dated for two years and then we decided it’s time we got married. Hame woh pasand aa gayi, hum dono ke aadate hume acche lagne lage, toh socha shaadi kar le. Right partner at the right time, what else can you ask for.

How did maturity reflect in your training?

I was always hard-working. But at times you aren’t as focused as you need to be. You are bowling a lot but you aren’t training with any direction. Then you realize something’s missing. What it is, you just can’t identify on your own. You need to have the mindset and focus to be the No.1 bowler in the world. Only then you can get there. So after I heard her say those things, I also realized I have pace and swing, it’s just about becoming a regular part of the team, and not just be in and out of the team anymore. It also helped that the Indian team was becoming a great unit and we got great coaches in the mix. They helped a lot in building my confidence. All my teammates are so supportive and I’m having fun in the dressing-room. And jaisa chah rahe ho, woh ho raha hai. Technically, I haven’t changed much. It’s just a clarity of thought that was needed.

Virat Kohli would always lament in his early days as captain about how his fast bowlers never had the same intensity in their later spells when the match was at the crossroads

The boys are now aware of how to deal with a spell once the body is tired. The idea is to set your field for one plan and keep bowling on that spot, and let the batsmen make mistakes. Just ensure you don’t make any mistakes.

Your career can be divided into two halves, pre-Delhi Test and post-Delhi Test..

Everyone has that Test after which you get that confidence and you get positive reviews from everyone and your own team. The management starts talking you up, then you realize that I only have to look ahead now. No point looking back. Basically in Delhi, I tried different things, like using angles from wide of the crease, dropped my arm and bowled side-arm because the ball was reversing. Because I wasn’t bowling with my natural release it was swinging late, the batsmen was confused by that movement. And it clicked.

Your economy rate and Pujara’s strike-rate always get debated over. It’s dropped drastically in your case.

It’s about focus again. Earlier what would happen is if I wasn’t getting wickets, in that quest I would bowl some half-volleys or stray down leg. Now I know what my length is and that if I keep bowling on the right spot, I will get wickets. So I realized that if I keep doing that my economy rate will come down and enhance my chances of getting wickets.

Bharat Arun had also said that you would get affected by getting hit for boundaries but that has changed…

Yes. It used to happen earlier, when you are playing one match, and sitting out the next. You get hit for a boundary, it does affect your confidence. And you start thinking about kya kare, kya na kare boundary chale gaye toh. But you learn. I have learnt to calm myself down in those scenarios, how to forget that ball and bowl a better delivery, that’s my greatest strength now I feel.

You have a background in fitness with your dad and him making you run around as a kid. But has it changed much of late and were you wary of playing nearly all of the 13 Tests in the home season?

My fitness routine is still the same. The trainer gives me a program and I stick by it. I have always known what I need to do and what I shouldn’t. My recovery, my strength program I stick to religiously. I know how much I need to train in a day. It’s very important to know your body. It comes from family background too in my case. I got it in my genes, my focus is to maintain it for as long as possible. My body is more suited to dealing with fatigue, maybe it’s God’s gift, but even when I’m tired, the body works at that same speed and intensity always without going down. My athletic background, sprinting and other sports that I played, have kept my body fit and flexible.

❤😘 — tanya umesh yadaav (@tanya_wadhwa) 14 February 2017

Did you have to change your diet. You used to be a Ghee fanatic.

No, I still keep eating ghee. No problem. Haven’t changed my diet much. I eat what I should as a sportsperson. Avoid sweets, don’t eat much fatty food, only what is required for the body. I have ghee one time a day for sure.

But a fast bowler sporting a Buddha tattoo and bowling bouncers?

I had a Mother Mary tattoo made for my late mother. Then you get that chaska. So got two more made. Shiv ji ko maanta hoon toh unka tattoo. I bowl bouncers only to get batsmen out, that’s my job so I do it, but otherwise my nature is the same like Buddha, calm and cool.

You seem to produce deliveries that fly off the wicket even on slow, low tracks…

I think if you’re confident enough and are powerful in body and mind you can produce those deliveries on any kind of wicket. You have to be aggressive as a fast bowler. I’ll bowl a bouncer on a paata and a bouncy wicket with the same intensity. Fast bowling is similar to batting in the sense like they say you have to positive and confident while playing a shot, it’s the same for a fast bowler. He has to think he’ll take a wicket on any pitch.

You have been this shy guy who seems like a reluctant star, so how are you dealing with this all this sudden-adulation?

It’s good for me. When you are so focused on doing well, and things start going your way, you stop worrying about negative things. You don’t waste your time on them. You’ll go to the ground, training and come back home. I am only focusing on what’s important for me in life, my wife, my dad, family and my cricket. The other things will take care of themselves.

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