Bhuvi: 'Managing additional workload will be important'

Bhuvneshwar Kumar talks about his increased pace, managing injury, captaining his State for the first time, making a comeback to the Indian side and much more.

Bhuvaneshwar Kumar will be making his comeback from injury in the game against Mumbai.   -  K. Bhagya Prakash

Bhuvneshwar Kumar will have multiple responsibilities over the next four days. He will have to prove his fitness to national selectors and make a case for an India comeback with a strong showing against domestic powerhouse Mumbai. He will have to impress on his captaincy debut for Uttar Pradesh. And he will have to lift the morale of an otherwise depleted UP team, in danger of relegation with just three games remaining.

The India pacer opens up on dealing with these challenges in a candid chat with Sportstar after joining the UP squad at the picturesque Srikantadatta Narasimha Raja Wadeyar Ground.

Excerpts:

What have you been up to over the last six weeks?

Rehab. Obviously it’s frustrating that you are in the team and get injured when you are performing well. You can’t play cricket, you can hardly bowl, if at all you are allowed to do fitness for an hour or so, you have to do that and then get bored for the rest of the day. It’s a challenging time for anyone. For me, the last year has been especially frustrating – play a game, then get injured, again come back and an injury follows. The last month has been frustrating in a different way since it wasn’t a major injury as such. I could have carried on but there was a chance of it getting aggravated. It was a 50-50 situation but now that I have fully recovered, am feeling really good about myself and raring to start bowling in matches again.

How frustrating is it when such an injury hampers your rhythm?

It’s frustrating in every sense. When you are playing well you are into rhythm. Match rhythm is a completely different thing but when you are injured, it’s difficult to return to rhythm straightway. Obviously I have been practising for a while but bowling in the nets is not enough to getting your match rhythm back. In that respect, the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) has done a real good thing by making a new rule of playing domestic cricket first while coming back from an injury. It’s a good thing in every respect. You can judge fitness of the player and the player can also get into match rhythm before playing for India rather than taking a day in a Test to get into his groove.

How fulfilling is it that after adding a few miles to your pace, you managed to earn a five-for in your first Test in India?

I didn’t add the pace intentionally. Obviously if you have to play Tests in India, that pace of around 130 (kph) wasn’t going to be enough, so I did aim for it. I am delighted that I could pick five wickets in the first Test in India after that. But that’s not something that I consider as an achievement. That was just the first step. After getting injured, the first challenge is to return to the team. I feel performing or not performing doesn’t matter, what’s important is how you feel about yourself. Rhythm is the key for me. If I am feeling good, that’s the best thing for me.

Is there a correlation between adding pace and injuries?

It’s like the chicken and egg thing. No doubt that with additional pace, the workload of the body has increased. Perhaps the body is not used to it since I have not bowled so quick ever since I started bowling as a 13-14 year-old, so I am not sure if there is a direct connection with injuries. Managing that additional workload is important from now on. I have been trying to adapt to these changes for the last year and hopefully the body will also adapt to the new regime soon.

What are the changes in fitness regime?

There’s not a drastic change but I have become more conscious about fitness since I know that the added pace has been taking more toll on the body. I am more involved with fitness now since I manage bowling and gym work. I am trying to be as fit as possible to minimise injuries.

With the additional thrust on fitness, will your batting be compromised as a result? Or does it come naturally to you?

Definitely I need to keep working on it. It’s necessary. Even bowling comes naturally to me, but I have to keep working hard on it. And the additional work in the gym doesn’t let you distract from working on batting. There is so much time left in the day even after spending an hour or so in the gym and bowling in the nets for almost that long, you can easily bat in the nets for an hour more. Especially when I am at home, I tend to bat more than bowl. When you are with the team and all 14 players’ skill sets have to be managed, I end up bowling more but while at home I bat more. I know that it’s one aspect where I can contribute to the team, so I try and improve on it.

How does it feel leading UP for the first time?

Definitely feels great. Leading any side, especially the state side where it all started but I am not thinking anything about leading the side at the moment. Basically, leading a side is a gut feeling about taking decisions on the field.

 

But it’s not an ideal situation considering the kind of season UP has had so far, right?

We can say it’s a challenge for me but like I said, I am not thinking anything about how we have fared in the last five games or how we would finish off in the coming three games. It’s natural that when a team loses a few games, the morale gets down. So for now, the challenge is to boost the morale. That’s the main aim. Our main aim is to just enjoy these three games without looking too much at the result. We want to take it day-by-day and match-by-match and remain positive all along.

UP are renowned to be unpredictables. How do you look at the points table going into the last three games?

Like you said, traditionally we are known to bounce back. It’s not that we are consciously thinking about lifting ourselves back. Everyone knows that it’s a long Ranji Trophy season and there will be moments when you can make a comeback. With three matches remaining, we are nowhere close to being at the top of the table but if we win all these games, you never know we might even qualify. That’s why I am trying to live in the present. We have been an unpredictable side to an extent and are hoping to turn things around.

Would it be fair to say that it will be a battle between UP bowling and Mumbai batting?

Frankly speaking, I don’t know much about their batsmen. They are traditionally a very good side with good batsmen. And yes, our bowling side is better than the batting unit, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be our bowlers versus their batsmen. Cricket, you know, is an unpredictable game. You never know we might not bowl well and they pile on 500, so it’s all about taking the chances and giving your best.

Do you think Mumbai will have an unfair advantage of playing at the same venue twice in the season of neutral venues?

The last week’s wicket was a different pitch, and this will be a new one. There’s no guarantee that the guy who scored a hundred in the last match will do so in the next. There will be a slight advantage in the sense they have an idea about the conditions. There won’t be that slight little awkwardness for the first few overs whenever they walk on to the wicket. That’s the advantage only they will enjoy but otherwise there won’t be any advantage. It’s going to be a new game altogether.