BENGALURU: In his first international match, Bhuvneshwar Kumar – then a young 22-year-old seamer – was up against the arch-rivals Pakistan at Bengaluru. The hosts were defending a moderate total of 133 in a T20I and needed early breakthroughs. ‘Bhuvi’ was assigned the task of bowling the first over against the left-hander Nasir Jamshed.
What happened in the next three overs is now a part of cricketing folklore. Bhuvneshwar bamboozled the clueless Jamshed as he got the ball to jag around both ways and on the last ball of the over he castled the opener with a nip-backer which uprooted his off-stump. His ability to generate a swing with the new ball was instantly registered.
In his next over, he also consumed Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal – two young audacious Pakistan batsmen – and stamped his authority. Though India eventually lost the match, a new star emerged in the cricketing firmament. Bhuvneshwar snapped up three wickets for just 9 runs in 4 overs and impressed everyone with his superlative show.
“It was a dream come true and I couldn’t have asked for a better debut. Swing is my strength and I have the ability to move the ball both ways. This keeps the batsmen guessing. It has fetched me a lot of wickets in the domestic circuit and now in international matches,” he had told this correspondent in 2013.
Bhuvneshwar shot to fame in 2008-09 when he dismissed Sachin Tendulkar for his first duck in Indian domestic cricket in the Ranji Trophy final. Since then, the Meerut lad has come a long way.
Though Bhuvneshwar has played only 21 Tests, the medium-pacer has been a vital cog of India’s limited-overs team for the last 10 years. In an era where batsmen have been disdainfully dominating bowlers in the limited-overs, his economy rate both in the ODIs (5.08) and the T20Is (6.93) is a solid testimony of his resourcefulness.
Initially, Bhuvneshwar was just dubbed as a new-ball bowler who can get the balls to swerve both ways in the air. But with time, he upgraded himself and became a hugely effective death-overs bowler for his Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad. In 2016 and 2017, he was the highest wicket in the IPL.
He has often been out of the ODI squads, owing to injuries and other factors, in the last 10 years. But his T20 credentials have always been stellar. Recently, he stepped up in the series against South Africa and won the Man-of-the-Series award. He snaffled six scalps and was instrumental in hosts squaring the series.
Though India lost the T20I at Cuttack, Bhuvneshwar exhibited appreciable skill as he nipped out four South African batsmen on a sluggish pitch. Once again, his knack for making the ball move around at will stood him in good stead. Even the opposition captain Temba Bavuma was compelled to eulogise his finesse.
However, the fly in the ointment in his sterling career is that he has never been a part of the Indian team which has won the World Cup. While playing the next 50-over World Cup seems improbable at the moment, Bhuvneshwar is certain to be a part of the Indian squad for the World T20 which is scheduled to take place later this year in Australia.
He will have to carry his form in the tentpole event and hit his stride if India has to do well in the tournament. The Meerut boy will have a chance to become the champion of the champions and end his international career on a high.
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