A thinking bowler

Bhuvneshwar Kumar… having performed well in the ODIs and T20 matches, he is all set to make his mark in Test cricket.-PTI

Eight ODIs and two T20 matches later, Bhuvneshwar Kumar is among the top pace bowlers of the country, writes Vijay Lokapally.

He is a man of few words. It is easy to extract an appeal from him on the field, but engaging him in a long conversation off it can be difficult — very difficult, in fact. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 23, excels in foxing the batsmen; snaring them consistently by reading the situation brilliantly.

His rise may appear rapid, but Bhuvnesh has been around for some time now. Five years after his first-class debut came the big break. A sensational debut in the T20 match against Pakistan gave indications of his skills as Bhuvnesh claimed three early scalps. The commentators hailed his arrival and the medium-pacer grew in confidence.

“Honestly, I haven’t seen much difference in his attitude or behaviour,” said Sanjay Rastogi, his coach at the Meerut Stadium. “I have to say then, it is the confidence he exudes. People generally feel that players from small centres lack the confidence, but Bhuvnesh has learnt his lessons fast,” he added.

Bhuvnesh also has support from Vipin Vats. The former Uttar Pradesh wicket-keeper has guided Bhuvnesh with his wisdom acquired over the years from playing in the domestic circuit. His job behind the stumps gave Vats the ability to read the bowlers well and he is convinced that Bhuvnesh has the attributes to serve the Indian team for a long time.

“The boy is amazingly grounded. It is not easy to handle fame when you are under constant scrutiny, but I am proud to say that Bhuvnesh has learnt his lessons well,” observed Vats.

Eight One-day Internationals and two T20 matches later, Bhuvnesh is among the top pace bowlers of the country. Speed is not his forte, but does it matter?

A potential all-rounder. Bhuvneshwar has the ability to back his bowling with batting. His coaches have drilled into him the fact that he can be far more useful to the team if he concentrates on his batting too.-AKHILESH KUMAR

“He relies on his skills and that is how it should be,” said Vats.

“He is a long-spell bowler,” insisted Rastogi; and rightly too. Bhuvnesh’s strong point is his ability to study the batsman and plot his dismissal.

“He has been a key bowler for the state team in the Ranji Trophy. When we met recently, he told me how he found the extra pace once he got early wickets. His aggression is natural, and at no point will you find him crossing the line. He loves (to bowl) a stump-to-stump line and keep the run-rate in check when playing in the one-dayers. Watch him when he bowls in the Tests,” said Rastogi.

In a Test, the batsmen plan their innings, but Bhuvnesh is good at planning his spells too. “He is watchful too. I know how well he plans. He has the potential to develop into an all-rounder,” said Rastogi.

Bhuvnesh knows he has the quality to back his bowling with batting. At No. 8, he may not get many opportunities, but his two coaches have drilled into him the fact that he can be far more useful to the team if he concentrates on his batting too. Bhuvnesh did face some problems against the off-spinners, but he was quick to have long sessions with Vats to overcome his apprehensions on playing the slow bowlers.

The Indian team management can look forward to some incisive performances by Bhuvnesh in the forthcoming series against Australia. His exceptional bowling in the one-day matches paved the way for his selection to the Indian Test team.

The pressure would be on Bhuvnesh and he is aware that it is just the beginning.

Bhuvnesh, who has very few friends because of his introverted nature and can spend hours, playing video games, has come up the hard way. From rolling the pitch to bowling long spells to even nondescript batsmen at the nets has helped him grow. He is mentally strong and is keen on making his mark as a Test bowler or better, as a Test all-rounder.