Umesh Yadav bowls a lot of balls down the leg side. It's the price he pays for attacking the stumps, but without it, India wouldn't be so invincible at home.
Delve a little into his statistics, and you realise that he, too, is invincible at home. His strike rate, for example, is better than Kapil Dev's, and places himfourth on the list of fast bowlers who have played at least 10 Tests in India.
His ability to pick up quick wickets was on show in Hyderabad, where he knocked over West Indies' tail in half an hour, and reserved his best for the centurion Roston Chase. Though Chase had batted 188 deliveries, the Umesh specialty - a straight ball at high pace and swinging into the right-hander - burst through Chase's defence, and knocked back his middle stump. Of Umesh's 69 wickets at home, 35 have been bowled or lbw. That's over 50%.
In an interview with ESPNcricinfo before the Tests, Umesh had spoken about a conscious effort to attack the stumps more. "Look, I know I have pace," he had said. "And pace aisi cheez hai, woh agar aapko kuch deti hai, toh woh aapse leti bhi hai [If you gain something from pace, you lose something too]. Batsmen have chances to score runs, they just need to time the ball. If you stray on the pads, it's an easy boundary. So I did some reflection about my bowling and thought that if I keep it wicket-to-wicket and swing the ball from the fourth stump, it will be difficult for batsmen to hit. And even if he goes to hit it, there is only a 50-50 chance of success. But if I bowl half-volleys or very wide, then I don't give myself a 50-50 chance, it's much less."
Umesh's career-best performance came in a match where he was the only fast bowler. For the longest time, he has had to compete with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharama, Mohammed Shami, and now Jasprit Bumrah, especially when India go abroad and find themselves starting at a pitch that is helpful for seam bowling.
"It's very unfortunate that Umesh didn't get to play much in South Africa and in England," B Arun, the bowling coach, had said before the Test. "Also, the bowlers who played performed exceptionally well. We look at Umesh as someone who is quick, and we also have a system where we rotate the bowlers so that they remain fresh. And Umesh would definitely be a part of that. And we are extremely confident of what Umesh can bring to the table."
So is he. Even though he is playing only his fourth Tests this year, Umesh steps up to the bowling crease full of energy. As importantly, he is one of India's best outfielders. "It's [in the] past and I am looking ahead," Umesh said on Friday, when asked about being in and out of the side. "I don't want to dwell on the matches that have gone by. My thinking is that I should try and perform well in the matches that I will be playing from now on. If I keep thinking about the past, then I won't be able to focus on the future. So focus is on doing well in future games and helping my team."
Umesh had the same mentality when he realised he would have to bowl extra overs on a flat pitch, with Shardul Thakur going off the field with a groin injury. "You can't really do anything in these situations as this is part of the game. If he is not there, I will have to bowl his quota of overs too, and I knew he was not going to come back. I didn't want negativity to creep inside. So as much as you discuss and deliberate, if I have to bowl, then I have to bowl. So my thought process was if the team asks me to bowl I am ready for that."
In all home Tests since 2010, India have benefited from 36 five-wicket hauls from a spinner - R Ashwin has contributed 20 of them - but only three from fast bowlers. Umesh joined those ranks on Saturday, and celebrated with a bonus wicket as well, recording the first six-for by an Indian fast bowler at home since Javagal Srinath in 1999. When the second innings starts, he has the chance to become only the third Indian to pick up a hat-trick in Test cricket.