Steve Smith, Kuldeep Yadav and AB de Villiers. (Getty Images)
NEW DELHI: Australia’s Steve Smith and retired South African swashbuckler AB de Villiers are the two batsmen, India’s leg-spinner Kuldeep Yadav finds most challenging to contain.
Yadav, who went through a prolonged lean patch in 2019, said both the batsmen have unique abilities.
“Smith plays me mostly off the back foot. He plays the ball very late as well, so it becomes challenging to bowl to him,” Yadav told Deep Dasgupta in the latest episode of Cricketbaazi on ESPNCricinfo.
“In ODIs, AB de Villiers is a good player. He has a unique style. Now that he’s retired, it’s a good thing! But other than him, I haven’t found any other batsman who I am sacred will hit me for a lot of runs,” he said.
Talking about his poor run last year, the left-arm spinner admitted that he lacked a few skills and was also affected by not getting a consistent run in the team.
“I prepared really well before leaving for the World Cup 2019 because I wanted to overcome my failure in IPL that year. Even though I didn’t pick up many wickets, I think I bowled well at the World Cup,” he said.
“After that I have been in and out of the team. If you are playing regularly, your confidence is high. If not, you are always under pressure to perform in the chances you get and your mind stays cluttered. I probably was at fault with my skills as well.”
Yadav said he shares a special bond with fellow spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, whose advise he values both on and off field.
“He has always taken care of me, like an elder brother. Even now, after playing so many matches together, even off the field, he gives me advice on cricket as well as off cricket.
“He supports me, and this bond is visible on the field as well. We’ve never had competition between us, irrespective of which of us gets picked to play. In the last year or so, only one of us has gotten to play at a time.
“He always used to say that we have to pick up three or four wickets in the middle overs. This has always been our plan and it used to be easy when MS Dhoni was behind the stumps.”
Yadav also said that he misses Dhoni’s inspiring presence on the field.
“When I started my career, I wasn’t good at reading the pitch. I learnt about this aspect after I started playing with MS Dhoni. He would often tell me when I needed to spin the ball or where I needed to pitch it.
“Dhoni was very good at setting the field as well. That’s why I never paid attention to field placement when I bowled with Dhoni keeping the wicket. He would understand where the batsman could try to hit me and set the field accordingly.
“It helped me bowl with more confidence…since the time he has not played ODI cricket, this has gone missing as well.”