India vs Australia: For Bhuvneshwar Kumar, upcoming Test series is a great chance to get rid of ‘just a swing bowler’ tag
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has time and again showed his excellence as a complete bowler who can bowl at any stage of the game yet he has been judged as just the ‘swing’ bowler.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar deceives you and we are not even talking about his bowling here. A look at his physique, run-up to deliver the ball and a saint-like attitude does not make a stereotypical fast bowler image in our minds. Just have look at the pacers in this team itself. He is not as flamboyant as Ishant, who used to run with his long hair flowing back or sport a funky hairdo like Umesh Yadav. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami too have the pace to appear daunting like the other two bowlers mentioned before. However, Bhuvneshwar is different. He is not someone who grunts after bowling a bouncer or stares at batsmen after bowling a peach.
He runs up to the bowling mark silently and bamboozles the batsmen with his artistry. And then he starts walking back to the bowling mark. No fuss about anything else.
A combination of skills and positive attitude has helped Bhuvneshwar Kumar grow fast in international cricket across formats.
In late 2015, when he had lost his swing and was smashed all over the park against South Africa in the home ODI series, he came back stronger. The tough times he endured in these matches were enough to give him a reality check. He went back to the nets to start from scratch.
In IPL 2016, he came out as a different bowler altogether. His swing was back but the most notable were the new additions in his arsenal – the slower one and the yorker. Unlike many of the promising young Indian fast bowlers, Bhuvneshwar returned a strong man.
He did not only become a bowler with many deliveries up his sleeve but was also more disciplined now. He knew how to adapt to the changing norms while keeping the basics clear. To put it in a nutshell, Bhuvneshwar had learned his grammar and was painting beautiful essays now.
As India head into Test series against Australia, another acid test awaits Bhuvneshwar.
Before the first Test, the focus has yet again shifted back to India’s bowling attack. Kohli, who is known for choosing horses for courses approach, can yet again spring a surprise. Are India going to with a three-pacer and two spinner strategy or vice-versa? If three pacers, then which three? Does Bhuvneshwar feature in this group?
If some experts are to be believed, Bhuvneshwar might not play the first Test as it does not swing too much in Adelaide. It’s not the first time, the Indian pacer’s skills have been presumed to be limited. Zaheer said in an interview to Cricbuzz recently that, “Bhuvneshwar will rely on swing and Australian conditions don’t really provide that. You will see good bounce and pace on the wicket. Unlike South Africa or England for that matter where you see some good sideways movement as well. Just for that reasoning, I would say that maybe for the first couple of Test matches, the Indian team will not be looking at Bhuvneshwar as first priority.”
Zaheer’s opinion is the biggest challenge that Bhuvneshwar faces in Australia. The notion about him being just the swing bowler has to go and it is about time he delivers in the conditions which, many think, does not suit his bowling ‘style’.
Former India spinner Murali Kartik is someone who does not agree with the ‘just a swing bowler’ notion. He told Firstpost, “No. I think he is just not a swing bowler. It is just a media created thing I feel that they made him a swing bowler. He is a very, very good bowler, who bowls well in all formats. The way he bowled in Australia with a Kookaburra ball in T20Is is a good example. (In South Africa early this year), he ripped through the top order in both the matches, at Cape Town and in Johannesburg.”
In South Africa earlier this year, India opted to leave him out of the Centurion Test for a ‘taller’ Ishant Sharma who was expected to extract bounce off the pitch. India lost the match by 135 runs. But let’s not make victory or loss as a parameter for selection. It is the form of a particular player and team management had failed there. Former South Africa pacer Allan Donald had rightly put it out, saying, “Don’t understand how you can leave a bowler out that don’t have more bounce than a taller bowler Ishant. Bhuvneshwar has so much skill and accuracy that he brings.”
Skills and accuracy are what Bhuvneshwar is all about. With that, he has taken 18 wickets in 5 matches he has played at home at an average of 20.38 since January 2016. In away matches, in the same time frame, he has played in 4 Tests, taking 14 wickets, 10 of those came in South Africa. An injury kept Bhuvneshwar out from India XI in England or he would have erased the possibility of having this discussion right now.
The Meerut-born bowler has time and again showed his excellence as a complete bowler who can bowl at any stage of the game yet he has been judged as just the ‘swing’ bowler. The tag ceases to go away. However, the upcoming Test series is a chance for him to get rid of that tag for once and all. Bhuvneshwar should consider this challenge, an inspiration to get rid of the tag and there is no better way to do that than to take wickets in a country where pace and bounce rules.