After an injury-stricken 2018, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has come into his own in 2019 and has 33 wickets in ODIs in 18 matches. He has played all but six matches India have played in the fifty-overs format this year and has been a pivotal figure for India after a lull period in 2017 and 2018.
After his 4/31 against West Indies at Port of Spain, Bhuvneshwar focused on how he has strung together dot balls to pick up big wickets. “I wasn’t thinking much about the result. We knew if we could get one or two wickets then we would be back in the game. When I came to bowl, all I was thinking was I have to bowl economically and I feel that wickets are the by-product of bowling tight,” the seamer said.
Bowling economical has always been Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s forte. He developed into a stringent pacer from a wicket-taking bowler early in his career and was the fourth slowest Indian to 100 ODI wickets. In 2018, he was struck down by a back injury during the England series and was out for a couple of matches.
During the Test tours in England and Australia, Bhuvneshwar travelled with the team but never played a Test despite being the Player of the Match during his last Test in South Africa at Johannesburg. The rhythm was gained slowly in Australia post the Test series.
“I was going through niggles at that time [in England], and when you have a niggle you can’t be a 100%. Since then and now, I have trained a lot, especially during the one month of the Test series. That is the reason I am back to [bowling at] 130-135kph, whatever the thing is. The main thing is I’m niggle-free right now. That’s the main thing for me,” Bhuvneshwar said then.
Lack of consistent game time affected his rhythm. And it was evident that Bhuvneshwar was itching to get back onto the field. In Australia, he practiced the yorkers and by the time the ODIs arrived, he was picking up big wickets consistently. Aside from troubling Aaron Finch through two series’, Bhuvneshwar broke big partnerships and picked up crucial breakthroughs.
“This (keeping shoes on the pitch) is something that I’ve been doing for some time,” he explained. “So keeping shoes there and bowling yorkers, practicing that thing. I didn’t practise that for almost a month now because in Tests, we hardly needed that. And I didn’t play a match. Going into an ODI or T20I series, you need that thing. So I was practicing that.”
The results are reaping this year. In the World Cup, he was exceptional against South Africa and Australia and picked up the wickets of Steven Smith and Marcus Stoinis at a big moment in the match against Australia. In West Indies, he has so far been donning the role of pace leader. He has lived up to it so far and is now back as India’s premier pacer alongside Jasprit Bumrah.