Indian spinner Kuldeep Yadav spoke about the influence that Gautam Gambhir and Wasim Akram had on him in his early days at the Kolkata Knight Riders. Kuldeep said that Gambhir, who captained KKR to two titles in 2012 and 2014, gave him confidence by assuring him of a place in the team while Akram prepared him on the mental aspects of the game.
Kuldeep says that Gambhir continues to talk to him even after the end of the latter’s stint at KKR and his playing career itself.
“Gauti bhai had a huge influence on me from the start of my stint at KKR,” Kuldeep told the franchise’s official website www.kkr.in. “He always spoke to me a lot. Not only during the time he was at KKR, but even after that, over these last two years.
“He always kept me motivated. Before the 2014 CLT20, he gave me a lot of confidence by telling me ‘You’ll play every game, just keep putting in the kind of effort you have shown.’ When you get that kind of confidence from your captain, it becomes a huge plus point for any player. It helps you remain confident, and that translates into good performances.”
Kuldeep said that he used to talk to Akram, a former Pakistan captain and one of the most successful fast bowlers of all time, during games in the dug-out and pick his brain.
“Wasim sir used to like me a lot too. He didn’t speak much about bowling, but he prepared me a lot in terms of mentally taking on the game. He prepared me to take on different situations in different ways, and taught me how to react when batsmen put you under pressure,” said Kuldeep.
“When he was at KKR, I used to sit with him and pick his brain a lot. I used to sit next to him in the dugout during matches and ask questions about real-time situations. I used to ask him what he would have done in certain situations, and he would test me by asking me what my approach would have been.
“So apart from Gauti bhai, he was someone who had a big influence on me during those early years. He also has a very good sense of humour, so it was great having him around.”
Kuldeep started his Indian Premier League career at Mumbai Indians in 2012 but it was after he was bought by Kolkata Knight Riders in 2014 that he started rising up the ranks in domestic cricket, culminating in his international debut in a Test match against Australia in 2017.