Ignored abroad but Umesh Yadav remains India's unsung hero in home conditions

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Umesh has been Kohli's go to pacer in Indian pitches.

Bowling on subcontinent pitches as a pacer can be thankless job. Hence, credit must be given to India pacer Umesh Yadav after his excellent showing in West Indies’ first innings in the ongoing second Test between the two sides at Hyderabad.

The 30-year-old notched up his maiden six-for in the format while helping the hosts bowl out the Windies for 311 runs. His effort is even more impressive given the fact that he was India’s sole pacer for almost the entirety of the innings.

His 6-88 was his career’s second five-wicket haul and the first time an Indian fast bowler has picked up a six-for at home since Javagal Srinath in 1999.

For much of India’s long home stretch from 2016-18, Umesh was a constant in India’s pace battery. Along with Mohammed Shami, he has very much been Virat Kohli’s go to pace bowler in subcontinent conditions.

During this home period, no other pacer has played more Tests for India than Umesh. In the last two years, Umesh played 15 Tests on Indian soil. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Shami played four, eight and six games each respectively in the same period.

He was a key performer for India when England and Australia came calling during that stretch and his ability to generate extra pace and reverse swing on the dry tracks helped the team get key breakthroughs.

The pacer was key to India's rise to the top of the Test rankings.

The pacer was key to India’s rise to the top of the Test rankings.

Umesh’s record on Indian pitches is excellent. While his career-average after 40 Tests is 33.61, his average at home is just a shade under 29 with 69 wickets in 24 matches.

After slugging it out like a workhorse on India’s home stretch, the pacer would have expected to reap the fruits of his efforts when the team’s difficult away stretch began at the start of the year. The green and bouncy wickets on offer in South Africa and England can make any fast bowler salivate but such has been Umesh’s luck that he was able to get only one Test in both the series combined.

Debutant Jasprit Bumrah was given the nod before him in the tour of South Africa and the 24-year-old firmly sealed his place in the side with a fine maiden Test series for India.

When the tour of England came about, Umesh was sidelined once again after playing just the one Test in which he finished with respectable match figures of 3-76. Despite India missing the services of Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar at Lord’s, Umesh missed out on the playing XI with Kohli opting to play a second spinner in Kuldeep Yadav.

Umesh was given just the one Test on the tour of England.

Umesh was given just the one Test on the tour of England.

That decision backfired massively on Kohli and India but Umesh would get no further games in the five-match series.

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo before the start of the Test series against the West Indies, Umesh had touched upon his poor luck on overseas tours.

“Yes, the hope is always there that if you have done well in India, you get a chance outside, where you have better opportunities to take wickets. But that chance has gone now and I can’t do anything about it. Now I need to give such strong performances when I get the opportunity that people will have to think that I have to play,” the pacer had said.

That is exactly what he has done in Hyderabad. After doing most of the ‘dirty work’ once again, Umesh will now be hoping that he is given his dues when the tour of Australia comes calling at the end of the year.

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