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20 Jun 2019, Edition - 1437, Thursday

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Sports

Hat-trick hero: Kuldeep Yadav’s fearless response after a poor first spell makes his feat so special

Covai Post Network

The left-arm wrist spinner was taken for 39 runs in his first seven overs. But that didn’t deter him.

A young Indian spinner, who’s showed a lot of promise in his brief career so far, takes a hat-trick against the Australian side at the Eden Gardens. What Harbhajan Singh did back in 2001 in *that* Kolkata Test, Kuldeep Yadav repeated on Thursday in the second One Day International against Australia to give India a 2-0 lead in the five match series.

The youngster said he had never dreamed of completing a hat-trick for India and said this felt a bit surreal. Leave alone dreaming of it in his career, before the 32nd over of the Australia innings, with five Australian wickets remaining, if someone said Kuldeep would get three-in-three, they should consider buying a lottery ticket immediately. It seemed unlikely that, given the day he was having till then, the 22-year-old left arm wrist-spinner would end up celebrating such a momentous feat.

“It didn’t quite look like it was going to be Kuldeep’s day,” said Harsha Bhogle on air.

As it turned out, Kuldeep became only the third Indian bowler to complete a hat-trick in ODIs. It was his day, after all.

The first seven overs
Despite the ultimate winning margin of 50 runs, India did not have enough on the board, if Australia batsmen had played to their potential. The bowlers, though, had other ideas. For the first 32 overs of Australian innings, it was a story of two Indian bowlers stepping up and the rest struggling. When Bhuvneshwar Kumar was making the ball talk, Jasprit Bumrah at the other end leaked boundaries. When Yuzvendra Chahal was choking the run-flow, Kuldeep and Hardik Pandya were giving away some easy runs. The old trope of “hunting in pairs” was just not happening for India.

Bhuvneshwar’s first six overs went for nine runs. Chahal’s first six overs went for 15. Both of them picked two wickets each. In contrast, Kuldeep’s first seven overs went for 39 – with the target reading 252, those were not good numbers.

His first two overs were run-of-the-mill, seven runs came off them. And then Glenn Maxwell took the attack to Kuldeep for the second match running. After three sixes in one over in Chennai, Maxwell hit two at Eden Gardens, back-to-back. Kuldeep repeated his mistakes by going full and close to the Aussie star, and he doesn’t need a second invitation to clear the fence. Kohli decided to take his spinner away from the firing line.

With Maxwell gone, Kohli brought him back for another spell in the very next over. And Smith and Stoinis realised the potential to upset his rhythm. When he went full, he was dispatched for four. They played late. They played within themselves and didn’t mind getting beaten occasionally. MS Dhoni’s dissatisfaction with the line he was bowling could be heard on the stump mic.

You could see Kuldeep was having a bit of a crisis in the middle, but this time around Kohli persisted with him. He changed his end. And then came the 33rd over.

The hat-trick
32.2: Kuldeep to Matthew Wade. It’s tossed up nicely, well outside the left-hander’s off-stump, and it seemed as the batsman was expecting it to come back in. It was the traditional away-going delivery though, and Wade kept chasing, and dragging it onto his stumps. Delight for Kuldeep, as he breaks his hoodoo for the night.

32.3: Ashton Agar in. The ball is tossed up once again, this time much fuller. The replay showed how steady the seam was, pointing to the first slip. The revolutions on the ball carried it all the way to the batsman, dropping just in front of his front shoe. Agar was caught in the crease, the ball hit him plumb in front. This time it’s a measured celebration from Kuldeep – just a smile and some finger-wagging.

32.4: Pat Cummins, the new batsman. There is excitement in the air. He looks at the field – a slip and leg-slip await him. Kuldeep starts his run-up, tosses it up again and lands it on a good length just on the middle stump. The scrambled seam wrong’un takes a decisive turn in the direction Cummins didn’t expect it to, takes the outside edge and Dhoni makes a tough catch look easy.

Bouncing back
“This is special for me, it changed the game for us. It was a really proud moment,” Kuldeep said after the match, admitting that he was struggling early on.

“Initially I was struggling to bowl in a particular area. It’s a game of cricket, everything happens. Last match, where I was hit for three sixes in an over, was a learning experience. I asked Mahi bhai what I should bowl, he said ‘tujhe jaisa lagta hai wo daal’ (you bowl what you want),” he said.

And that’s the most impressive part of the hat-trick. As good as the three balls were, it was Kuldeep’s ability to bounce back from the first seven overs he had bowled, that augurs well for Kohli. He did not get the hat-trick on a day where he was in good rhythm. He continued tossing it up, even when he was getting hit. He got the protection from his captain early on after Maxwell went after him, but made sure when he got a second chance, he grabbed it.

Make no mistake, batsmen around the world will now train extra hard to read Kuldeep now. Just like Maxwell showed, others will go after him early. But on a unforgettable night for the youngster at the most iconic stadium in Indian cricket, there was a lesson in celebration. That he needs to persist and believe. The rewards will follow.

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