One’s loss is another’s gain, they say, and for the Indian Test team in Bangladesh, the loss of Ravindra Jadeja meant they regained Kuldeep Yadav, the red-ball bowler.

Let’s face it, it was arguably only because of the absence of Jadeja in India’s ongoing tour of Bangladesh that prompted the Indian team management to re-introduce Kuldeep Yadav in the set-up. If all of Ashwin Ravichandran, Axar Patel and Jadeja are fit and available in subcontinental conditions, chances are those three walk into the first XI.

When India opted to go in with three spinners in the Chattogram Test, unsurprisingly, Kuldeep made it to the XI ahead of Saurabh Kumar. Not too long ago hailed as India’s No 1 overseas spinner in the format, Kuldeep was playing in whites after nearly two years. So there was bound to be some spotlight on him.

With his match-winning figures of 8/113 in the Test, Kuldeep answered questions and doubts around his return. His five-wicket haul in the first innings, career best figures of 5/40, was instrumental in bundling out the hosts for 150.

Kuldeep Yadav's best Test figures

Overs Mdns Runs Wkts Inns of match Vs Ground Start Date
16.0 6 40 5 2 v Bangladesh Chattogram 14 Dec 2022
14.0 2 57 5 3 v West Indies Rajkot 4 Oct 2018
31.5 6 99 5 2 v Australia Sydney 3 Jan 2019
13.0 2 40 4 2 v Sri Lanka Pallekele 12 Aug 2017
23.0 3 68 4 1 v Australia Dharamsala 25 Mar 2017

Kuldeep admitted in the post-match press conference after the first innings that his time away from the format for two years had been playing on his mind but because he had already made the return to the limited overs side, he did not struggle to make the switch from white-ball cricket to red-ball cricket.

“You need a lot of control in Test cricket,” he said. “You have to extract wickets because the batters have so much time to read and play you. The biggest challenge in this format remains setting up the batter and bowling in the same area. I was ready for that.”

While his comeback is special as it is, it was the all-round show with the both the bat and ball that makes his performance even more memorable. He is no mug with the bat, as shown in his domestic career, but it was for the first time in his nine Test innings so far that Kuldeep truly turned up with the bat. With a handy 40-run cameo alongside Ashwin, he was in touching distance of his first Test fifty and played a crucial role in pushing the visitors past a competitive first innings total, finishing with 404 runs.

For Kuldeep too, this comeback was memorable because of the same reason. The first thing he acknowledged after winning the player of the match award was, “To be very honest, I am happy with the performance, both with bat and ball.”

Not too long ago, the left-arm wrist spinner was one of the most exciting talents in the international cricket. But the success his style brought also invited intense observation and analysis, and when teams started to read him better, he struggled.

Comebacks require reinventing yourself, course-correcting, refining your skills, upgrading and modifying them and making sure they are evolving with the game’s dynamic nature. It’s a necessity. It took some time but Kuldeep added some pace to his bowling, figured out how to vary it more effectively and is now reaping the rewards in his return to the Indian set-up, whenever called upon.

Analysing his performance, he said, “First innings, the pitch was quicker than the second innings. There was some pace in the first innings, but the second innings was very challenging. It was slower. so I was trying to work on my rhythm and bowl quicker.”

On several instances in the Test where the Bangladesh resistance reared its head, Kuldeep stepped up. For instance, on day three, when India were still figuring out how to dislodge seniors Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim in the first innings, KL Rahul made the bowling change to bring on Kuldeep. In a brilliant spell then, he dismissed Shakib in just his second delivery and almost had Nurul Hasan LBW in the same over.

He then sent back Rahim for 28 and then completed his four-for by picking Taijul Islam, sending Bangladesh into a collapse mode that was hard to recover from. As India returned to clean the tail on day three, it was Kuldeep again who picked the wicket of Ebadot Hossain to register his five-for.

In the second innings again, Kuldeep was called upon when when skipper Shakib Al Hasan batted brilliantly for 84, smashing six sixes through the course. But within 50 minutes on the final day, India had the hosts all out for 324 as Kuldeep removed Shakib and Ebadot in consecutive overs, ending with figures of 3/73.

When asked to explain the advantage of his bowling, particularly wrist-spin, he said, “Probably more revs on the ball makes it challenging for the batters and it is difficult to step down and drive as well. I just worked on my rhythm, tried to be more aggressive and it’s helped me a lot.”

Of course, it helped him. But more than anything, it helped India. India were able to take 20 wickets in the first Test on a pitch that continued to flatten out and made run-scoring easier. And so, for a team that prides itself on being able to produce this on any pitch, anywhere in the world, Kuldeep’s comeback truly is special.