Kumar: 'Slower deliveries, change of pace was key to India’s success'

The key to India’s success in the first T20 international, according to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, was the change of pace and a high percentage of slower deliveries.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar starred with the ball as India went 1-0 up in the three-T20I series.   -  Getty Images

Bhuvneshwar Kumar today said South Africa’s ploy to unsettle Indian batsmen with short-pitched deliveries had back-fired. The key to India’s success in the first T20 international, according to Kumar, was the change of pace and a high percentage of slower deliveries.

Kumar (5 for 24) grabbed his maiden five-wicket haul in T20 internationals to help India notch up a 28-run win after restricting South Africa to 175-9 in 20 overs.

“What I was trying to do is bring about a change of pace in my bowling. I just wanted to take the pace off the ball because I knew it won’t be easy to hit the ball and that’s what I did. The important thing is how you mix your deliveries according to the wicket,” Kumar said.

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“For instance, today we bowled a lot of slow balls. It was a part of our strategy on this wicket, to do away with pace and make it difficult for the batsmen to score," he explained.

Shikhar Dhawan scored 72 off 39 balls as India sped off in the powerplay overs. The visitor finished with 203/5, its highest total in T20 cricket against South Africa. This was despite the Proteas peppering the Indian batsmen with short balls.

Playing the short ball well

Kumar said, “Whenever India goes abroad, the reputation is that India is not good at batting against short bowling. This time we haven’t seen that thing. We have really tackled it well. Today they bowled 5-6 overs of short bowling to us early on and it really backfired on them.

“Whatever the reputation we had, in the last few years we are playing totally opposite of that. We have managed the short ball pretty well on this tour.

“Something doesn’t work for you, you have to come up with something else (a plan B, but they didn’t). So that’s what probably worked to our advantage.”

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Riding on winning momentum

Kumar attributed the team’s 28-run win in the first T20I to a 'complete performance'.

“When we went in there, we knew what we wanted to do as best as a bowling team,” said Kumar.

“We lost the first two test matches and then we came back. The momentum was on our side and if momentum is on your side, you have got to make it count. Credit has to go the Indian team for the way we have played in every department,” he added.

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Fitness holds key

Kumar became the first Indian pacer to pick up five wickets in each format of the game. Additionally, he has had a successful tour after impressing with both bat and ball in the Tests as well as the ODI series.

The speedster said that managing workloads and fitness has been the key to his success.

“It’s not easy playing all three formats, especially on a single tour. So the first thing, before coming here, I wanted to do is manage workload. I wanted to practise but in a specific way, so as to not put extra workload on the body,” he said.

Asked about his five-wicket haul, Kumar said: “Taking wickets means a lot when you play for your country. It doesn’t matter if you take five wickets or how many as long as you’re winning matches for your country. That’s what matters and taking fifers in every format feels good. I want to do it as long as possible.”

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Kumar said batting first on the Wanderers pitch gave the side ample idea about the nature of the wicket and it helped when it returned to defend the total.

“After we batted, we had a certain idea of the kind of wicket we would be bowling on after what we saw. But the whole picture begins to emerge only after you’ve bowled because it depends on the bowlers,” he said.

South Africa will look to bounce back quickly in this series. The second T20I will be played in Centurion on Wednesday and Kumar said India can never take the Proteas lightly.

“If you look at the one-day series and now, yes they’ve been vulnerable. But South Africa is not that kind of team (to be considered fragile). It happens to any team in the world when things don’t go your way or plans don’t fall in place but that doesn’t mean they’re a weak team or they’re not a good team,” he signed off.