They come in with a reputation of bowling fast. In no time, most of these bowlers end up being medium pacers. Fast bowlers – medium fast to be precise – losing pace is as consistent a phenomenon in Indian cricket as doctored wickets for Test matches.
Bhunveshwar Kumar has proven to be an exception to the rule. The swing bowler, over the last year or so, has managed to gain pace. In a chat with Sportstar , the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowler spells out the reasons behind and the process behind adding a few extra miles to his bowling. Excerpts :
How did you manage to gain pace?
When I came into the international circuit, pace wasn’t my strength. But when you spend some time at a particular level, you realise where you need to improve in order to succeed at that level and go even higher. That is where I decided to work on my pace. It is one department which is usually hard to improve on at this level but I would sincerely like to thank the regime set for me by Indian team’s new trainer, Basu Shankar. He set a programme for me, power training, which helped me achieve my goal without losing the key skill.
What is power training?
I have been working on it for six months now. It’s nothing but a set of training method that has helped me a lot. And it’s not a short term training programme as such, it’s become my usual training regime now.
Was there a particular moment that sparked off your decision to start working on speed?
If I have to put it down to one moment, I would say it was because of Test cricket in India. When the wickets are assisting spinners, it is the fast bowlers who get preferred in the team instead of medium pacers. That was the main reason behind my decision to up the pace. I realised if I wanted to play Test cricket in India, I had to gain pace but not at the cost of swing. I was always clear I wanted to be known as a swing bowler but someone who could bowl decent pace. I worked with the same objective.
How difficult has it been to strike the balance of attaining pace but not losing swing?
If you see, I have managed to start bowling in the early or mid-130s from mid-120s, with an odd ball touching 140 (kmph). If I tried to bowl at 140 all the time, I knew I would lose swing because bowling fast genuinely becomes a different ball game. I would have had to change my action, and if I changed my action, I would have had to compromise on the swing. I wasn’t ready for that, so I targeted touching 135 and retaining swing. It’s coming off well.
Ever since the last IPL, you haven’t been getting opportunities in India’s eleven across formats. How challenging or frustrating has it been to be in the squad but not in the team?
I have looked at it from the positive side. Since I have not been a regular in the eleven, I have been focussing a lot of skill enhancement. When you in the eleven, you are thinking more about how to trap a batsman. Since I haven’t been a regular in the side of late, it has given me an opportunity to turn myself into a more confident bowler and a more positive cricketer. I keep telling myself to keep working hard and be ready for the next opportunity.
Your death bowling came to the fore during the last IPL. Did you work specifically on it ahead of IPL 2015?
It wasn’t just the last IPL but I have been working on this aspect for the last two-three years. That was another side that I wasn’t so good at when I made my debut in international cricket, so I have been working towards improving my death bowling for two-three years now. Glad that it came off well in the last IPL. The IPL presents you with at least 14 opportunities to improve on a particular aspect of your game, and 14 is a huge number to make something work.
So what’s the target this season?
Team target is obviously to win the maiden title. I have also set an individual goal, which is to win the Purple Cap. If I can achieve that, it would help the team immensely and make me confident as well. At times, you bowl exceedingly well but are not rewarded with when it comes to the wickets column. But besides bowling economically, taking wickets is the key if I have to contribute handsomely to the team’s cause.
Ever since its debut in 2013, Sunrisers Hyderabad have continually carried the tag of an underdog. Does it bother you?
I haven’t really thought about it and I honestly don’t care about it. It doesn’t really matter how we are tagged, what matters is how we perform in the tournament. Whether you are favourites or underdogs, the training regime, the will to succeed and the hunger to perform at the best of your abilities remains the same. Eventually it’s the performance that matters and I hope we can continue to deliver the same way for the rest of the season.
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