After returning match figures of 6/59 in India's innings-and-137-run win over South Africa in the second Test, fast bowler Umesh Yadav said that he was undeterred by the uncertainty over his position in the team.
Since the start of 2018, Umesh has featured in only six of the 19 Tests India have played. This, despite having picked up 26 wickets at 18.73 in that time.
It speaks volumes about India's riches in the fast bowling department. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma have often been preferred over Umesh. However, the 31-year-old hasn't been left feeling dejected about the uncertainty over his place in the side. Instead, it has motivated him more to excel in every opportunity he gets.
"This is part and parcel [of the game], it will keep happening as long as I play cricket," Umesh said, after helping India to attain a series-clinching victory in Pune. "These situations will keep coming, and I know I have to be ready when I get my chance. For that, it's important to stay positive, keep playing the game, and stay focused."
The biggest challenge with not playing frequently is that of maintaining rhythm and being match-ready. Umesh said he keeps himself focussed by playing domestic cricket and for the India 'A' team.
"I always make sure I keep getting match practice, whether it's Ranji Trophy or India A or anything else. These are the things that give me positivity, and my focus remains sharp because the more matches you play, the more match practice you have, which is very important, because as much as you may bowl in the nets, it's different when you play matches and know how you're supposed to bowl, what planning you need to do.
"These things (selection) aren't in my hands. I can't say, 'no, I need to play every Test match'. All the bowlers are good, all of them are doing well, and there's healthy competition. Whoever does well will keep playing. At some stage, each of us will get chances, and when that happens, I need to be ready, positive, and focused."
Speaking about the match, and India's decision to enforce the follow-on despite South Africa's first innings lasting 105.4 overs, Umesh said that the bowling group was more than willing to have another go.
"All bowlers said that we are ready if follow-on is enforced as we didn't feel the need to rest. The intent was to win, and not, 'let's bat a bit and stretch the game'.
"The wicket wasn't difficult to bat on. Fast bowlers didn't have much help as there was no seam or swing movement. The ball only swung for a few overs. There was no pace off the pitch and you needed to hit the deck. If we get some breakthroughs with new ball, it becomes easier for the spinners."
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