Bhuvneshwar Kumar does not fit the description of the typical fast bowler. He is pencil thin and also lacks the aggression of a quickie. But then appearances can be deceptive as beneath the cool veneer of Bhuvi lies a fighter who has to wage a battle not only against his rival batsmen but against himself as well. For someone who played in just eight matches for Team India (before the SA series) 2015 has been a test of his will and hunger to succeed.
His dismissal of the well set AB de Villiers in the fourth ODI in Chennai on Thursday –which was one of the `cornerstones of India’s win—but In the end, his figures of 3 for 68 went unnoticed. For the limelight was fiimly on Virat Kohli who notched up his 23rd ODI ton (tp become the second highest ton maker in ODI’’s) and Harbahajan Singh ‘s crucial two wickets in the early stages which got all the publicity. but it was enough to give Bhuvi the much needed confidence that he required. Incidentally he had taken 3 wickets in the second ODI in Indore, another effort which saw India winning that ODI.
This year Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been going through one of the toughest times of his career. The soft looking bowler who thrives on swing rather than speed had quite a forgettable year so far—he did not get to play a major match in the World Cup in Australia earlier this year/ the lone match he got to play was against minors UAE and that was very tough for someone whom captain MS Dhoni would turn to open the bowling and often ended up bowling his full quota at one go. That was on the Indian pitches where his swing was good enough to get India the early breakthrough.
But then it did not take much time for the soft spoken Bhuvi to realise that to achieve success on the harder pitches abroad required pace more than swing. And the reality check which he got in the World Cup in Australia- New Zealand was something which of a revelation to him. “I realized that a bowler needed pace more than swing if one had to succeed in the harder pitches in Oz. It came as a revelation to me that it was pace more than anything else which helps a bowler to get wickets. The conditions there don’t help swing bowlers and that’s when I realsied that I had to add a few yards to my pace,” said Bhuvneshwar.
It was then that Bhuvi went about in real earnest to add that pace to his bowling. He began to work harder both on the field and off it. Physcial conditioning was the key and Bhuvneshwar realised that to ball faster he would have to put in a lot more hours at improving his physical fitness. In no time there were results as Bhuvneshwar’s average speed now is 136kmph as against the 125k\mph he used to bowl last year.
But in the process did he lose out on swing one of the most important part of his bowling?. As Bhuvi himself said, “No, I don’t think I have lost my swing. I have told this in the past as well that I need proper conditions to assist my swing bowling as well. If I have conditions on offer I would swing the ball a lot more than the rest of the bowlers. If you see in the last match, there was some swing early on in the innings. When there is no swing on offer, I try to exploit the reverse swing if at all there is any,” he said.
There’s another interesting aspect to Bhuvneshwar’s bowling. He revels at bowling at the death.For this he has perfected the short pitched stuff and also the yorker. It was a short pitched ball which got rid of AB de Villiers on Thursday just when it seemed that the South African would single-handedly win the match for his team. Added to this is the fact that Bhuvi is able to polish off the tail and that augurs well for him.
“I think Bhuvi is a much better bowler at the death nowadays. This is going to serve him good in the future as we lack a genuine bowler who can be effective at the death. I think Dhoni realizes that he can be pretty effective towards the end of the innings and that is a very vital factor which is going to swing things in Bhuvi’s favour,” said Raj Kumar Sharma, Virat Kohli’s longtime coach.