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India's Emerging Fast Bowler

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This is story for those who believe that in India you can play for country if you bribe or have influential contacts



Mumbai: Three years ago, Umesh Yadav tried to get into the Nagpur police force, but failed to make the cut as he wasn’t a graduate.

Three weeks ago, he made it to the Indian squad for the World T20 as a replacement for the injured Praveen Kumar, but failed to make it to the Caribbean because his visa didn’t come through on time.

On Tuesday, he will take off with a new-look Indian team that heads to Zimbabwe for a tri-series also involving Sri Lanka — this time with his travelling papers in place. “I was obviously disappointed at not making it to the West Indies, but this time, everything was in place well in advance,” Yadav told DNA.

The 22-year-old fast bowler insisted that he wasn’t nervous ahead of his first international assignment. “I’ve not set myself any targets other than to give a 100 per cent whenever I get an opportunity.” His approach is understandable when you take into account the roller-coaster that the last three years have been.

Until two years ago, Yadav had never even played with a leather ball. The son of a coal-mine worker, Yadav’s proficiency lay in sending down screaming toe-crushers in tennis-ball tournaments for prize money ranging from Rs 11,000 to a lakh. In many ways, his story seems scripted in neighbouring Pakistan, where legends rising from flood-lit, tape-ball tournaments aren’t exactly uncommon.

Convinced his son was wasting his life on Nagpur’s sun-beaten dustbowls, his father asked him to apply for a job on the police force. “I cleared the written and physical tests,” the tall, broad-shouldered quick said, “but the fact that I wasn’t a graduate cost me that job.”

Finally, two years ago, a friend of his who played professionally asked him to turn out for his club — the Vidarbha Gymkhana — in a local tournament. To label the events since then ‘fast-tracking’ would be an injustice to the term ‘under-statement’.

In his first Ranji season, for the unfashionable Plate Division side Vidarbha, he picked up 20 wickets in four games. In his first Duleep Trophy game, he picked up a five-wicket haul, including those of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. And a stint this season in the Indian Premier League —where he played seven matches and picked up six wickets for the Delhi Daredevils — brought him into national reckoning.

More than a few lessons have been learnt on the way, but Yadav’s adamant that he will complete his graduation. This despite the fact the ability to hit the 140kph-mark has catapulted him into a world where the only numbers that matter are those in the wickets column.

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