Bhuvneshwar Kumar - Swinging matches India’s way
Bhuvneshwar Kumar made his T20I, ODI debut against Pakistan, a country which is known to produce swing bowlers every now and then. Apart from Irfan Pathan, none other Indian bowler has troubled them with swing bowling of late. So India’s arch-rivals had either not seen any previous footage of Bhuvan’s bowling prior to their series against India in December 2012, or they weren’t expecting too much swing from him. So what came may have been a surprise, but the right-arm bowler took just five deliveries to announce him at the big stage.
In his T20I debut where he was handed the new ball, Bhuvneshwar bowled five balls to Nasir Jamshed, most of which moved away from the left hander, followed by one that moved in, hitting Jamshed’s stump, which was a perfect start to his international career. That wasn’t the end as he took two more wickets in the match and ended with excellent figures of 9/3 in 4 overs, which is a record for the best bowling figures on T20I debut.
His ODI debut was equally impressive. Bhuvan pitched the first ball of the innings outside the off-stump and it was a beautiful inswinger that knocked Hafeez’s stump. I am sure even at nets, the Pakistani all-rounder wouldn’t have faced a ball like that. His reaction said it all. Hafeez stood there at the crease for seconds wondering whether it was bowled by an Indian bowler on an Indian pitch. And for all those who thought that one ball was a fluke, Bhuvan replied back with a magnificent spell swinging the ball both ways, leaving the Pakistani batsmen and Indian fans in a gobsmacked state.
The 23-year-old bowler from Meerut entered history books as his first wicket in all three formats of the game has been bowled. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has another unique record to his name in Indian domestic cricket where he became the first bowler to have dismissed Sachin Tendulkar for a duck.
Cricket experts went gaga over his line and length and everybody wanted to see Bhuvan bowl in extreme seaming conditions of England. And the 23-year-old lived up to the expectations getting early breakthroughs for India in the ICC Champions Trophy, even though the conditions seemed more like what we would see in Asia. He went wicket less in one match against Australia and even though he didn’t pick plenty of wickets, it was the pressure created by him early in the innings that made the job easier for the other bowlers.
Something which worked for him was the fact that Bhuvneshwar was spared of all the hype when he made his international debut. Most of the Indian bowlers got carried away after they were compared with the legends of the game even before they made their debut. For instance, pacer Avishkar Salvi who had a similar action to Glenn McGrath, was hailed as ‘India’s McGrath’ even before he bowled a single ball in ODIs.
The only concern for me is the longevity of Bhuvan’s swing. Irfan Pathan was someone who troubled batting stalwarts with his massive swing, but once it perished, the left-arm pacer struggled to find a regular pace in the team. And just like Pathan, Bhuvneshwar too is handy with the bat. Lower down the order, he has a batting record to his name when he stitched a record 140-run partnership with Dhoni for the ninth wicket against Australia on his Test debut.
Zaheer Khan seems to have lost his mojo, Umesh Yadav is often left injured, Irfan Pathan has lacked consistency and thus Indian cricket was undergoing a dire phase where they desperately missed a swing bowler who could get them wickets on a regular basis. Thus Bhuvneshwar Kumar has come as a breath of fresh air, and is now Dhoni’s first choice with the new ball.