Not many in the world of international cricket can boast of taking a wicket on their first ever delivery. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, however, has that privilege. His first ball wicket against Pakistan, in which the ball tailed in sharply to take the off stump behind Mohammad Hafeez for a walk, is still fresh in the memory of many fans, and is in fact one of the things they remember him by. People used to see him as a young bowler who could swing the ball a long way. He was akin to an upgraded version of Praveen Kumar with a bit more pace and all-rounder abilities. He further enhanced his reputation as India’s premier bowler in the Champions Trophy in 2013, as well as the tour of England in 2014, where he took 19 wickets in the Test series.
Since then however, things have not been progressive for the UP lad. Plagued with an ankle injury, he could not do well in 2015. Neither could he make much of a contribution in the 50 over World Cup in which Shami, Yadav and Mohit Sharma were preferred over him. Looking woefully out of sorts when called to Australia, Bhuvneshwar Kumar didn’t play much of a part in the recently concluded T20 WC either. Perhaps, he was just trying too hard. Having been told to increase his pace, he seemed more inclined towards hitting the deck, rather than just playing to his well-known strength: swinging the ball. He looked to be lacking confidence, and desperately needed a lift to avoid emulating a tragic Irfan Pathan like story in his own career.
Thankfully enough, the IPL has come at the perfect time for him to get back in the eyes of the selectors. And boy, hasn’t he just grabbed the opportunity by the throat! Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s bowling performance has been one of the major reasons why SRH is at the top of the table today. With 23 wickets from 16 matches, he holds the Purple Cap, and at an economy rate of just 7.5, many would hail his effort to be a commendable one in the T20 format. He has been absolutely brilliant at the death, bowling accurate yorkers at will. But the notable aspect where he has been making a telling contribution has been at the start of the innings. With a phenomenal 9 wickets in his first spell, he has consistently provided the platform for Fizz and Sran to keep things quiet in the middle overs. People look at Fizz and his economy rate, and conclude him to be the main bowler for SRH. No doubt he has been exceptional in executing his off cutters, making them almost impossible to hit. However, one must not underestimate Bhuvneshwar’s contribution to the Sunrisers outfit.
Rahane twice, Dwayne Smith, Suresh Raina, Vijay, Finch, Guptill, Patel, Gayle: all world class batsmen, sent back by this lad in the powerplay. If you ask cricket pundits, notching up wickets in the powerplay is the most effective way of restricting your opponents to a modest total. Bhuvneshwar has not been just about quantity; the quality of his wickets too has been incredible to the point where you could almost call them Test Cricket-esque. Either a little bit of swing away, taking the edge, or into the batsman, taking the nick. Else, taking the leg in front. In any case, he has been executing plans to perfection. Take a look at the Finch dismissal. At the innings break of the match against Gujarat Lions, he pointed out that he had been studying Finch’s batting and had realized that Finch doesn’t play inswing well in the early part of the innings. Later, notably, three of Bhuvi’s inswingers grazed the inside edge of Finch’s bat before the fourth one ripped the off stump.
Bhuvi has clearly got his zip back. He is swinging the ball both ways, and most importantly, he is enjoying his bowling. With the in-form Nehra Chacha opening the bowling attack alongside him, he has the perfect mate to start off the spell without much pressure. He has become a vital cog in the Sunrisers outfit who are looking to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
The revival of Bhuvi also comes at the right time for India. With Test cricket returning to India later in the year, a fit and confident Bhuvneshwar Kumar is crucial to India’s chances. He could very well go ahead and be what he was once touted to: the next big thing in Indian cricket.