Coming into the World T20, quite a few armchair critics would have been intrigued by the role medium-pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar was to assume. Essentially a bowler who relies on the conditions, who clocks not more than 135 kmph, who isn’t as enriched with variation as some of his new-ball operating contemporaries, and whose credentials in the shortest format are unexceptional.
His past, too, wasn’t any insightful. Though he debuted memorably, conceding only nine runs for three wickets against Pakistan on a track with moisture, he was eviscerated in his next outing (46 runs in four overs). In his next T20I, nearly a year later, he again scalped three, though leaking 35 runs. Hence, he was a bit of an enigma.
The match against Pakistan only reaffirmed his shortcoming in the shortest format, his lack of variations ruthlessly unmasked. However, he wouldn’t have felt any undue pressure, for the focus whenever Team India play in familiar climes is on the spinners. The pacers smoothly fade into the background. And they did against West Indies, though it was Bhuvneshwar who set the tone, exploiting the slight hint of movement to the maximum optimum.
On charmed days, he would have collected better premium for his efforts, for he consistently swung the ball both ways, industriously landed the ball in the channel of suspicion and frequently harassed Dwayne Smith.
But in T20, dot balls are as priceless as wickets, and he bowled as many as 16 of those. This would have exceeded skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s wildest expectations. “I told him to ensure that he does not give too many loose deliveries.The batsmen have to go after him to play the big shot. That will be like a winner for him and there was a bit of help and he made sure he was bowling in the right areas. That is how he will contribute throughout. Especially in this game I thought he bowled brilliantly. His length was very crucial and he was able to swing the ball,” Dhoni explained.
However, if India are to roll through to the next stage, they require a concerted and collective effort from their bowling unit, not blessed as they are with game-changing bowlers. The spinners have ensured just that. Though Ravindra Jadeja was expensive against West Indies, overall figures of 24-1-153-9 by the three specialists spinners are more than serviceable.
Given that his spinners were substantially criticised, Dhoni is understandably satisfied that his spinners’ variety of tweaks and twirls had been far too clever for both Pakistan and West Indies batsmen to comprehend. “There is a bit of help for them but at the same time you have to execute your plans well, especially in this format. You have got some of the big hitters in the opposition that you will have to carefully plan for and innovate at times. So I was really happy that our spinners have done really well.”
The focus now is to groom a group a bowlers canny at the death overs, perceptibly a grim area for the Indians. They already have Mohammed Shami and Ravichandran Ashwin, but Dhoni wants an alternative option, and hence the Jadeja experiment against West Indies.
“Trying Jadeja at the death is an option I’m trying to check as we will have a lot of big hitters coming in the next few matches. We have Shami, whom we look upon as a death over specialist. I’m trying to get one more bowler, it may be Jadeja, Ashwin or whoever, as a death-over specialist.” That would fill in the last blank in India’s quest for bowling harmony.