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Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s form warning for South Africa, England and Australia

Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s magnificent spell against Sri Lanka in Eden Gardens in conditions that offer some movement is a warning for South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand as the Indian cricket team prepare for their real Test in overseas tours in 2018.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Nov 22, 2017 18:07 IST
Siddhartha Sharma
Siddhartha Sharma
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India vs Sri Lanka,Bhuvneshwar Kumar,Indian national cricket team
Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s performance on a seaming wicket at the Eden Gardens has ensured India possess a potent medium-pace battery capable of testing the best in the business, and more so in conditions which offer some movement(AFP)

Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s eight-wicket match haul (8/96) against Sri Lanka on a lively Eden Gardens pitch could serve as a warning to India’s away opponents in 2018 — South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand. Alomg with Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, India possess a potent medium-pace battery capable of testing the best in the business, and more so in conditions which offer some movement.

Bhuvneshwar’s spell in Kolkata helped India almost pull off a win after a batting failure got the hosts into a hole.

Since his debut in 2012 against Pakistan in T20, Bhuvneshwar’s speed ranged between 130-135 kmph, giving him full control on his line and length. Like former South African skipper and pacer Shaun Pollock, Bhuvneshwar too bowls from middle of the crease and slight variations of his bowling arm in the follow through help him to move the ball both ways.

Prodigious swing, clever use of the crease and the decision to bowl within himself made Bhuvneshwar stand out. Though he is much stronger now and can consistently clock over 140kmph, Bhuvneshwar’s new gained wisdom to opt for control has seen him become India’s leading pacer since 2016.

Till the end of 2014, Bhuvneshwar played 11 Tests picking 28 wickets at 30.25, took 44 wickets in 42 ODIs at 36.59 and picked 11 wickets in nine T20s at 17.59.

After India’s tour of England in 2014, where he took 19 wickets in five Tests, it seemed Bhuvneshwar has ended India’s search for the third pacer. But then came the slump in 2015. His focus had shifted to working on fitness and going for pace. It did not work. He played just one Test against Australia and had one wicket to show for. An ankle injury kept him out of action till June.

In ODIs too, 2015 was a nightmare. He played just 13 ODIs taking 15 wickets. The South Africa ODI series in India proved to be his worst. He conceded 106 runs in Mumbai, 68 in Chennai, 65 in Rajkot and 67 in Kanpur. His pitch map showed deliveries sprayed all over and his focus on bowling over 140 meant less control and very little swing.

Bhuvneshwar agreed that his basics had gone wrong. “In that series, I didn’t go for speed but I bowled badly. I couldn’t swing the ball and it was a bad series. But it wasn’t that I stopped swinging the ball because of speed. I realised I needed to go back to basics and get my swing back. I don’t need to bowl over 140 as long as as I can swing the ball,” Bhuvneshwar had told HT in May 2016 after becoming the best bowler in IPL taking 24 wickets in Sunrisers run to the title.

The West Indies tour in August, 2016 was a proof that Bhuvneshwar had regained his mojo. He took six wickets on a bouncy track in Gross Islet.

Playing at home, India have preferred Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav in Tests on tracks where spinners have dominated the show.

But Bhuvneshwar’s fifer at Colombo and his three-wicket hauls against Australia and New Zealand in Kolkata and Pune have brought him back. Since 2016, Bhuvneshwar has taken 24 wickets in seven Tests including eight in the last one in Kolkata where pacers ruled the show on a greenish top.

If Bhuvneshwar’s prowess and progress is taken into account, he falls in the same category as pacers like Vernon Philander, James Anderson, Josh Hazlewood and Trent Boult. All of them have the potential to destroy any batting line-up singlehandedly on their day.

Come 2018, Team India can boast of having Bhuvneshwar in their ranks, a bowler equipped to perform in conditions where there will be some movement.

First Published: Nov 22, 2017 09:41 IST