Umesh Yadav landed at the Chandigarh airport at 7am on Sunday morning without much fanfare and headed straight to the hotel where the rest of the Indian team was staying after almost getting an SOS call from the selectors and the Indian team management. Umesh was called up to the Indian T20I side in dramatic fashion after Mohammed Shami was ruled out of the three-match T20I series against Australia due to Covid-19. Shami himself was set to play his first T20I since last year’s Dubai World Cup.
The urgency with which Umesh Yadav has been brought to Chandigarh makes him a near-certain starter for the series opener here in Mohali on Tuesday. If Umesh features in the Indian XI in the first T20I, it will be his first try with the white ball in India blue in 43 months. His last T20I was also against Australia in February 2019 at Visakhapatnam and his last ODI was further in 2018 at the same venue against West Indies.
But that doesn’t mean Umesh is out of touch with limited-overs cricket. In fact, it’s the other way around. Against all odds, he had a great IPL with Kolkata Knight Riders this year and was one of the most lethal pacers in the powerplay, taking 16 wickets at an economy rate of 7. This was primarily the reason for his sudden return to T20Is. setting barely a month before the World Cup in Australia.
The selectors decided to use the experience of Shami and Umesh after the sears’ below average performance in the Asia Cup, which was one of the main reasons why India did not reach the final. The raising of eyebrows with Umesh’s selection does not end there. The call for him to be named as Shami’s replacement came hours after his county side Middlesex issued a statement about the veteran right-armer’s season coming to an end due to a hamstring injury.
The catch is the timing of Umesh’s injury. He suffered an injury in the Royal London Cup match against Gloucestershire last month and immediately returned home. Since then, the 34-year-old has been undergoing rehabilitation at the NCA in Bengaluru. After Shami tested positive for Covid-19, the selectors contacted the NCA physio and they gave a clean chit on Umesh’s fitness, paving the way for the Vidarbha cricketer’s return to the Indian side.
Before the injury, Umesh was in good form for Middlesex. Picked up 16 wickets in 7 List A matches, including five-for (5/33) against Durham. India’s World Cup squad has already been announced and neither Shami nor Umesh feature in it – the former is part of a trio of cricketers – but if Umesh puts in a good performance against Australia and Shami does his thing in the next series against South Africa then it shouldn’t be a surprise if these the two veterans will mix in the youngsters to join the World Cup squad if needed. Not to forget, they were India’s main weapons when the World Cup was last held in Australia in 2015, albeit in the ODI format.