Bhuvneshwar: From the badlands of UP, a swinging prodigy | sports | Hindustan Times
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Bhuvneshwar: From the badlands of UP, a swinging prodigy

On Friday at St. Lucia, Bhuvneshwar, having struggled with injuries, and a forced lay-off, produced a magical spell of swing bowling that has given hope for an unlikely victory for India.

sports Updated: Aug 13, 2016 12:34 IST
Pradeep Magazine
Cricket
More than his five-wicket haul, it is the skill of Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s in making the ball behave like a puppet on a string that had first made him an indispensible part of the team.(AP)

Meerut is a throbbing, bustling place, a typical mix of rural and urban India where masses of people spill onto the cluttered, pot-holed, slushy roads, negotiating trucks, buses, cars, tempos, rickshaws, cows and baffaloes with equal equanimity. It is known more for feudal rivalries, gun fights and a law and order machinery which is difficult to fathom on whose side it is: the victims or the criminals? To the cricket world, the city was known as home to a thriving sports goods industry, where brands like SG, SC and BDM are manufactured; till a frail, young man started rattling batsmen with his swinging deliveries.

Praveen Kumar, whose build would have made even a spinner feel the need to develop more muscles, worked his way into the Indian team, swinging the ball as prodigiously as a spinner would turn the ball. Lack of pace and perhaps even the right guidance made him lose his way in the glamorous world of cricket. As if on cue, a more somber and disciplined version of Praveen Kumar, from a similar background and place, arrived on the scene. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, son of a former police constable, had all the virtues that made Praveen Kumar play for India. And like him, he lacked pace, making people wonder would he last?

On Friday at St. Lucia, Bhuvneshwar, having struggled with injuries, and a forced lay-off, produced a magical spell of swing bowling that has given hope for an unlikely victory for India. Even accounting for an opposition which bats for short term profits, Bhuvneshwar’s spell with the second new ball was akin to a chess-master plotting to check-mate his opponent. The two classic examples were that of the dismissal of Jermaine Blackwood and Marlon Samuels. Blackwood was left wondering which way the ball would move, after facing a series of in and outgoing balls, while Samuels was set up to believe that the ball would leave him. Instead, it came in and shattered his stumps.

More than his five-wicket haul, it is this skill of Bhuvneshwar’s in making the ball behave like a puppet on a string that had first made him an indispensible part of the team. Somewhere along the way, helost his moorings, but unlike Praveen Kumar, he did not seek comfort in the city of his living. He tried to work on building strength and pace, increasing it by a few knots, though the experts felt he was sacrificing his main weapon, swing, in doing so.

Nothing seemed to go his way. Injury, lack of confidence and a loss of place in the team could have spelled an end to his career. He worked his way back, stuck to the fundamentals and was trusted by the selectors and here the team management has led to a revival of a career few thought would blossom again.

To keep swinging the ball both ways for long without losing control is a rare art. If he can bowl spells like he did on the fourth day of the Test match more often and keep himself injury-free, Bhuvneshwar is back and so is India in this Test.