It's that time of the year where cricketers are given a break from international matches and play for their respective franchises in the remunerative Indian Premier League (IPL), however, this time the T20 league will be followed by the mega ICC 2019 World Cup which makes matters a bit dicey for the players.
Team India had a strenuous and arduous schedule in the last one year or so, with a number of away series (Ireland, England, Asia Cup & Australia), however, the IPL is a platform for the players to re-energize and that's exactly what chinaman Kuldeep Yadav is looking forward to.
With the fitness factor in mind, especially with the World Cup just a few months away, India captain Virat Kohli told his boys to play 'smart cricket'. In an exclusive interview with IndiaTV, Kuldeep decoded what the skipper actually meant.
"Virat just told us to play smart cricket, which means to be injury free, to work on the fitness and to work smartly. Main aim is to be free of any injuries so that we can give our best in the World Cup," Kuldeep told IndiaTV.
On being asked about India's preparation for the 50-over mega extravaganza, the wrist-spinner feels that the Men in Blue have played plenty of cricket in the past year to construct their plans and strategies for the quadrennial tournament.
"To be honest, we're ready for the World Cup. We've played plenty of cricket in the last one year; the journey has been long as we've played plenty of series as well and what we have produced so far has been pretty good. Just now the focus is on IPL and then the World Cup," said the spinner.
India had a mixed season in the last 12 months with a few results not going their way, however, Kohli and his boys seem to have an idea of what to expect in England.
Recently, former Australian opener Matthew Hayden lauded Kuldeep and equated him to the legendary spinner, Shane Warne.
"Leg-spinners provide option and variety. In particular, if you look at Kuldeep, his strength is not how far he turns the ball but his strength is how the ball just like Shane Warne's deliveries arrives at the batsman. It has a distinct curve in the air," Hayden told PTI.
On Hayden's praise, Kuldeep felt honoured and hopes he lives up to the expectations of the former cricketer.
"One feels good after a senior player compares you to your legend, an idol. I feel that the hard work I put in is paying off and will definitely work harder for the World Cup. There is still two months left which I’ll use in getting ready for the tournament," said Kuldeep.
India were handed a reality check when Australia won the T20I and ODI series in India, providing the No.2 ranked ODI team a much-needed wake up call.
Shifting focus on the lucrative IPL which begins March 23, Kuldeep believes that the most important factor is for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) to start their season with a win as the competition has upped the ante.
"You cannot predict what the IPL has to offer, Each team is pretty strong at the moment as they have quality players. It all depends on how we start the campaign, the better the start, the better for the team. All the focus is on playing good cricket," Kuldeep signed off.
KKR open their season when they face 2018 finalists, Sunrisers Hyderabad, on March 24 at Eden Gardens.