CHENNAI: That the Eden Gardens has generally been benevolent to batsmen in ODIs is quite the open secret. That the last two clashes there aggregated 1,269 runs is enough to unveil that subtext. With this statistical backdrop and the fact that India will take on Australia there come Thursday, the Men in Blue’s speedsters assume more significance in shaping the outcome of the second ODI.
With the assumption that India don’t tinker with the combination that has given them a 1-0 lead, the spotlights are bound to be affixed firmly on Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Going by the way he has evolved over the last year or so, the right-arm pacer is more than equipped to handle the blinding beams that will come his way.
“Wicket-taking has to be the priority against Australia, and Bhuvneshwar is one bowler who has the capability to produce such balls at the right times,” remarked former India batsman Pravin Amre.
“He’s got many variations up his sleeve, and he’ll definitely play a key role in the second ODI, and even in the 2019 World Cup.”
This faith reposed in the Meerut bowler stems from the way he has diversified his bowling repertoire along with an increase in speed. Apart from employing knuckle balls, yorkers and short-pitched scorchers — a pivotal part of his Purple Cap run in this IPL — judiciously, the 27-year-old has also grown in terms of adaptability, as evidenced by his Champions Trophy outings.
Featuring in all five clashes, Bhuvneshwar walked away with seven wickets at an average and economy of 28.14 and 4.63.
That too when venues in England didn’t exhibit their usual ‘pace haven’ traits. Concatenate this with Bhuvneshwar’s ODIs stints in West Indies and Sri Lanka, and those numbers still maintain an aura of discipline and incisiveness: 14 wickets in 12 matches at the same average and an even better economy of 4.52. Not to mention his maiden fifer in the last ODI.
Despite being stereotyped as a ‘conditions apply’ pacer, it wouldn’t be wrong in this context to conjecture that he can deliver even when pitches aren’t in the mood to show magnanimity to his brethren.
“He’s put in a lot of work and it shows. He tailored himself into a death bowler when India needed one,” observed former India all-rounder Madan Lal.
“He has the action, variations, and everything else going for him. But his increased maturity is what is translating into better results. Not to mention that that level of experience allows him to make the ball do his bidding at will.”
If tracing out an evolution with the ball wasn’t enough, Bhuvneshwar’s learning curve with the willow too has seen an upward slope. After notching up his first ODI fifty during the second match against Sri Lanka, he did his bit with the bat yet again in Chennai, this time with an unbeaten 30-ball 32.
“I was with him during an India A tour in Australia, eight years ago. I observed him during a few Ranji Trophy matches as well, and I felt that he was wasting his batting talent,” elaborates Amre.
“He’s always done well for Uttar Pradesh, even with the bat. He came into the Indian team as a bowler and hence his focus was only on that. But I’m glad that he’s working on his batting. He can be a good all-rounder for Team India, and that’s good news for any captain.”