Bhuvneshwar Kumar: Possible differential factor with swing and intelligence in Australia
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has picked 66 wickets from 66 T20Is|
As India will be preparing for the T20I World Cup in Australia this year their choice of players becomes crucial considering India’s failure recently. Bhuvneshwar Kumar should be one of the first-choice players for the tournament with his massive swing in powerplay and accuracy in slog overs.
Bowlers who have mastery over the art of swing bowling have a special place in the cricket world. Some impressive pacers like Wasim Akram, Dale Steyn, Chaminda Vaas, and Waqar Younis swung the ball effectively and made waves in the past. Also, in the current era, bowlers like James Anderson or Trent Boult trouble batters with their ability to swing the ball both ways. On 25 December 2012, India was blessed with one of the magnificent swing bowlers in limited-overs. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was making his debut in a game against Pakistan with a reputation of having the ability to swing the ball both ways. Notably, he had made headlines before his debut when he became the first bowler to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar for a duck in first-class cricket in 2008/09.
It must have been a tense international debut for Bhuvneshwar as he was up against arch-rivals Pakistan. In his first over, the pacer deceived Nasir Jamshed with a series of outswingers. However, he set the batter beautifully bowling a delivery coming in on the last ball and the stumps were shattered. This was a glimpse of what Bhuvneshwar can achieve with his swing and accuracy in the years to come. He hasn’t been a hit-the-deck bowler and that sometimes takes away the limelight from him but his ability to swing the ball both ways and accuracy to bowl in the right areas makes him special.
However, only swing was not going to be enough for the pacer to sustain in modern cricket. There have been various bowlers in the past who had the ability to swing the ball both ways but faded after some years due to their lack of pace as they became predictable. Praveen Kumar was one such example in Indian cricket but Bhuvneshwar made the difference with his adaptability. He added some pace to his bowling and the variations necessary to survive in the modern era.
His career was going well and was on he was on verge of being India’s best swing bowler ever but he suffered roadblocks due to injuries in 2019. He suffered a hamstring problem in the 2019 ICC World Cup. Also, he missed a major part of the IPL and Australia tour in 2020 courtesy of a thigh injury. Also, his pace was dropped due to injury and he was on his way to becoming predictable. But, he was back in his essence on his international return in the series against England last year. The lengthy break from international cricket due to an injury worked for him as a blessing in disguise and he picked six wickets in three ODIs and four wickets in five T20Is with an economy of 6.38 which was the least for the Indian team.
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The last two years have been comeback years for Bhuvneshwar in T20Is and he has been once again troubling the batters with the swing in the powerplay and restricted the batters in death overs with his pace variations and yorkers. He picked 12 wickets from 12 innings at just an economy of 6.59 in 2021 and has 13 wickets in 10 innings this year so far with an economy of 7.20. The economy was below 7 but an expensive last fixture against Ireland had damaged his economy rate a bit. These stats make him a strong contender for the T20I World Cup in Australia later this year.
The role he can play for India in the showpiece event is the new ball bowler and a supporting bowler for Jasprit Burmah in death overs. In Australia, he has taken eight wickets from seven innings and has an impressive economy of 6.21. A new shiny ball in the hand is a strong aspect of Bhuvneshwar’s bowling but his death bowling gives him an edge over his counterparts. Mohammed Shami can replace him as he has a more wicket-taking ability with his seam movement in powerplay but one should wait before reaching the conclusion. Shami has an economy of 10.67 in 15 innings in death overs while Bhuvneshwar has an economy of 9.32 in 50 innings. Deepak Chahar can be another bowler who can give competition but again death bowling is the area where Bhuvneshwar excell courtesy of his knuckle ball and control over yorkers. So, all these point out that Bhuvneshwar should earn a spot in the T20I World Cup.
The final point that vouches for his contention in the T20I World Cup squad is his performance in the IPL 2022—playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad as their most experienced bowler he picked 12 wickets in 14 matches this season. In the previous two seasons, he had scalped three and six wickets respectively. Also, he conceded with an economy of 7.34 which is the second-best economy since the 2015 edition whenever he has played more than 10 matches. Also, his economy in the slog overs was just 8.79 in 13 innings. These stats prove that he had one of the best seasons in recent years.
Bhuvneshwar is usually underrated as he is not the typical hit-the-deck bowler and neither does he have a massive number of wickets to show. However, what makes him different is his ability to quickly adapt to the changes in the game. He added the knuckle ball and variations considering swing wouldn’t have been the only way to take wickets. There have been and there are powerplay specialists and death specialists in the game but the ability to take wickets with a new ball in the powerplay and restrict batters in slog overs with accuracy in one bowler make Bhuvneshwar special. After a series of knockout exits in the recent ICC tournament, India will aim for their shot at glory in Australia this year and Bhuvneshwar can play a big role with his experience and intelligent use of skills.