Kuldeep Yadav might be India’s No 1 spinner in white-ball cricket, but when it comes to Test matches, he is still third in the pecking order after Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. But for the left-arm wrist-spinner, that’s motivation enough to keep learning and improve his skills in the longest format.

Speaking after day three of the Sydney Test between India and Australia, Kuldeep said, “When you know you have Ashwin and Jadeja in the squad and you are the third [spinner], there is a lot to get [motivated by] them. They are the ones who keep pushing me in the nets — ‘you have to bowl this way and in certain areas’. It is important to learn from them. They have played enough cricket and I am still learning.”

India took a stranglehold on the match over the opening two days, compiling a huge 622 for seven declared on the back of centuries from the irrepressible Cheteshwar Pujara and livewire Rishabh Pant.

On day three, Australia got off a good start, reaching 128/1 thanks to a Marcus Harris half century, but he once he got dismissed by Ravindra Jadeja, the top order collapsed, reaching 236/6 at the end of day’s play, which was cut short by bad light and impending rain.

India lead the series 2-1 after victories in Adelaide and Melbourne and are fast closing in on a historic first-ever series win as visitors, since they first toured Australia in 1947-48.

In tandem with Jadeja

Kuldeep, who finished the day with figures of 3/71, said it helped to have Jadeja keep things tight from the other end, and that allowed him to express himself.

“When two spinners are playing it is important to build pressure from both sides. Jadeja bowls his overs very quickly and maintains a good line. So its becomes easy to bowl from the other end because you can then experiment a bit and use variation. The wicket is good for spinners as the ball is turning and bouncing,” he said.

The 24-year-old said he hasn’t changed anything specific in his bowling for the Test series and enjoyed getting into the act on the third day after the Indian batsmen had done well.

“I was playing the first Test of this series and so was obviously slightly nervous. I don’t think the wicket matters to me much, be it a rank turner or flat,” he said.

“For me, this was a good wicket for me to bowl on. Bowling on the third day is one of the best time for any spinner to bowl. I just wanted to bowl the right line and length because if you do that and bring in variation you can control the ball well.”

Khawaja, briefly, and then Harris played some positive cricket, and that’s a challenge Kuldeep said he relishes, especially deceiving the batsmen with flight.

“Sometimes its hard when the batsmen start picking you. That’s the beauty of cricket. You have to keep learning every day and I am still learning. The England tour was challenging for me. When I played there in the Lords Test match and after that I really worked on my bowling with my coach. For any spinner, its very important to stick to the basic of spin bowling and I am still working on that. I don’t believe in mystery. If you are good enough to deceive the batsman in the air, that’s more important for me,” Kuldeep said.

Fielding improvements

India were near-flawless on the field on Saturday, with vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane leading the way with a stunning ctach to dismiss Labuschagne.

“We have got best fielding coach in Sridhar sir and we are really working on catching in slips, silly point and outfield as well,” Kuldeep said. “I feel we are the best team in the world when it comes to fielding. It’s really important for every player to give 15-20 minutes in fielding and hopefully we will improve day by day.”

Kuldeep must now be used to spending a lot of times in the nets on away tours. He was part of the squad in England and Australia, and on both tours he has featured in just one Test. That has meant a lot of time bowling in the Tests, and the wrist-spinner said that it is challenging to manage and he prefers match practice.

“When Test cricket comes [after regular white ball cricket] it does take about 10-12 days to start controlling the red ball. If you are bowling regularly in nets, you can improve but match practice is more beneficial because [longer format] is different. So, when I came back from Lord’s, I worked a lot with my coach. There was an A-team series in Bangalore where I performed well. And once you get your rhythm you start bowling well and that helped in West Indies series. Match practice is more important always,” he said.