'Boss, this puppy fat you have na...': Former India coach recalls Ravi Shastri’s tough talk with Kuldeep Yadav

Kuldeep, who had gained a few pounds, was sidelined for several months after undergoing knee surgery and suffering a hairline fracture in his wrist in 2022.

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Kuldeep Yadav has reached the peak of his career at a young age, yet the journey to becoming India's second-best spinner after Ravichandran Ashwin was far from easy. Despite making waves in the cricket world with multiple hat-tricks, Kuldeep faced significant challenges along the way. Despite his impressive performance of taking a five-wicket-haul against Australia in Sydney, he went over two years without playing a Test match for India. Additionally, a knee injury during the IPL 2021 season kept him out of the Kolkata Knight Riders' lineup, leading to a period of struggle and uncertainty for the talented bowler.

Bharat Arun, who served as India's bowling coach at the time, shared an intriguing anecdote about a conversation between Kuldeep and former head coach Ravi Shastri during this difficult period. This exchange encapsulated the highs and lows that Kuldeep experienced on his journey to success.

"Boss, this puppy fat you have na has to be melted away. I can't think of a single reason with improved fitness that you won't become a world-class Test bowler," Arun's memory harks back to Shastri's words in a chat with The Indian Express.

Kuldeep, who had gained a few pounds, was sidelined for several months after undergoing knee surgery and suffering a hairline fracture in his wrist in 2022. However, upon his return, he underwent a transformation. It can be described as a renaissance for Kuldeep, as he has surpassed Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja to become India's second frontline spinner in Tests, and the leader in ODIs and T20Is. Looking back on that challenging period in Kuldeep's career, Arun stated that the setback was a turning point that allowed Kuldeep 2.0 to shine brightly.

"Any bowler can bowl quicker – that was never the point. It had to be done without sacrificing turn, loop and dip. And it was always about the energy through the crease. The ultimate result is a visible increase in pace. Not the other way around. Not going there and firing the ball. None of us are idiots! It was about being patient and working hard," Arun pointed out.

The former bowling coach has pointed out another area of improvement in Kuldeep's game - his increased level of fitness. Previously, Kuldeep was not known for his agility on the field and would often have difficulty near the boundary. However, he has transformed into a more dynamic player, throwing himself around, making diving saves, and preventing boundaries. This improvement in fitness has also enhanced his quick-arm action, giving him a slight advantage over his opponents. When combined with Kuldeep's cunning and variety of deliveries, he becomes a formidable force that is nearly impossible to play against.

"How do you do that? Fitness certainly is a factor to bowl in Tests with that kind of energy. We always knew Kuldeep can deliver: Who can forget the ball he bowled in the 2019 World Cup to Babar Azam! How to sustain that through longer spells? When your release point's hand position is precise, you have a quicker arm speed. All the spinner's nuances can come through the wrist position," pointed out Arun.

"Now look at him, quicker arm-speed, that bustle through the crease, near-perfect hand position at release, and it's all going in the direction it ought to go – towards the batsman at the other end. With better fitness, his basics (of bowling action) taken care of, he is now actively channelling all his energy at the other end, trying to beat the man there."

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