Long run in Tests gives Umesh results
Through the course of the 2016-17 home season, Umesh Yadav has played more matches and bowled more overs than any other Indian fast bowler. His efforts, though, haven't always translated into wickets: before the start of the series against Australia, Umesh's average for the season was 54.23.
The rewards, though, have begun to arrive. Five bowling innings into the Border-Gavaskar series, he has taken 12 wickets at 22.00, at a strike rate of 44.5 - better than any other Indian bowler.
Umesh has said his improved numbers in this series are a reflection of the confidence he has gained from playing regularly. He also said he has tried to weed out his weaknesses - including a widely-commented-upon tendency to bowl far too many loose balls.
"Actually, I feel it is all the same. I'm doing the same things [through the season], but the confidence from playing matches, and the hard work that I have put in [have begun producing results]," he said at the end of the second day in Ranchi. "Usually, I used to be in and out of the team and so I didn't understand what to do but as I started playing more matches, I was just focusing on my bowling - what I should do and what I shouldn't.
"I have figured out what my bowling is, where I must bowl, what my weaknesses are, and what my strengths are. Earlier, there was criticism in the media that I bowled a lot on the leg stump, and conceded boundaries on the leg side after building pressure for four balls. I have cut that down to a large extent. Slowly, I am getting back to my ways."
Australia batted first in Ranchi, and, on a pitch that played truer than expected, posted a first-innings total of 451. India began their reply confidently, ending day two on 120 for 1. Umesh felt it had been difficult for bowlers to control the flow of runs given the ease of batting on the pitch and the quickness of the outfield.
"On this wicket, it is very difficult to stop singles," he said. "450 has taken them four and a half sessions to get, so on an average [that is] 100 runs per session. We also made 120 in one session. On this pitch, it is hard to stem the flow of runs; it isn't as easy to bowl as you might think because the singles will keep coming and the outfield is so quick that once it is in the gap, it will go to the boundary. 450 is there or thereabouts [as a good first-innings score here], 20-30 this side or that, but we will try to get to that total."
Steven Smith top-scored for Australia with an unbeaten 178, his second hundred of the series and his sixth in his last seven Tests against India. Umesh said bowling to Smith was tricky given his unorthodox technique and his pronounced shuffle across the stumps.
"Actually, it can be quite difficult," he said. "You know you what to bowl in a certain way, but sometimes when he keeps moving, moves from leg to off and opens up, then it becomes a bit difficult - your plans are no longer effective. So you have to wait till the last minute, depending on how much he moves, before deciding what to do."
Umesh ended Australia's innings with figures of 3 for 106. India's most successful bowler was Ravindra Jadeja, who finished with 5 for 124 from 49.3 overs. Umesh said Jadeja was in the form of his life as a bowler.
"I think he is bowling the best he has been. He has got a lot of five-wicket hauls in recent times and he is bowling really well. Jadeja is the kind of bowler whose bowling style suits any type of wicket. His variations and his control are very good. If he gets even a bit of rough, he knows what his aim is, where he has to bowl. I think he is bowling at his best and he is getting his rewards for that."
Virat Kohli went off the field with an injured right shoulder in the 40th over of Australia's innings, and did not return thereafter. The BCCI have said he is fit to bat, and Umesh said he had already begun batting in the nets.
"The bandage will obviously be there because if you have a shoulder injury, you need the bandage to hold it together but he [Kohli] is ready to play," Umesh said. "He has been batting in the nets as well, so obviously he will come back."
Umesh wasn't sure if the pitch would continue to behave as it has through the first two days, but did not think it would break up too quickly.
"For now, I don't foresee much change but still hope for the best," he said. "If there is some change, good, but for now, as you can see, it still is good for batting. Normally you can't say much about the wicket - how much it will change or help the bowlers."
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo