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Bhuvneshwar Kumar - The case of swinging deliveries

It’s been a long time since I saw extraordinary swing bowling from an Indian. To be precise, it was the year 2008, when another youngster from Uttar Pradesh stormed into the international arena, bamboozling the best batsmen in the CB series. The ball swung both ways like a pendulum, and the batsmen simply had no answer. It was a nostalgic moment when Bhuvneshwar Kumar showed up on the field yesterday.

At the outset, he was just like a typical Indian bowler and was a bit wayward, or so I thought. My friend sat beside me and jeered at him for his pace and called him ‘the successor to Praveen Kumar’ (referring to his pace or the lack of it); how ironic could it be? The first five balls were pretty ordinary, the ball just doing what it’s supposed to do whilst new. But the sixth ball initiated what we could call an exhibition of genuine swing bowling. The ultimate ball of the first over, pitched on the same line as the other balls, swung in to the left-hander, taking his off-stump for a walk. It was shocking to say the least; I never reckoned this skinny, gentle medium-pace bowler from Uttar Pradesh could have any kind of effect on the match. And he proved me wrong in the very first over.

He invoked our interest enough to wait for his next over. It was even better this time, as he picked up two wickets to put India in the driver’s seat. The first one was of Ahmed Shehzad, who nicked an away-swinging delivery, which was accepted delightfully by the Indian skipper behind the stumps. The next wicket was even more fascinating: he set Umar Akmal up the same way he did Nasir Jamshed. After bowling two out swingers, he got one to swing back sharply which knocked off the middle stump and sent the bails flying. It was classic old-school bowling from the pacer who did not show even a glimpse of the nervousness that he might have been feeling, and instead focused on the task at hand.

India lost the game yesterday, but found a hero who was willing to bend his back and make the ball do the talking. It bodes well for himself and Indian cricket. However, it all depends on how the team management and the captain handle him. He is an outright swing bowler and it would be better for Dhoni if he uses Kumar within the first ten overs, so that he can exploit the new ball. Yesterday, India suffered from the lack of such a pacer towards the end, which resulted in defeat; Dhoni might be thinking of holding back Bhuvneshwar to bowl the last over in the next match. But Kumar’s strength is the ability to swing the ball, and if he comes on to bowl the last over, he would turn out to be a mediocre bowler owing to the lack of pace; without pace, it is difficult for a seam bowler to contain the flow of runs.

The baby steps were successful for Kumar, and it is vital for him to not break down like the other talented bowlers who were bogged by criticisms after failures. He should look to work on his weaknesses, and improve his strengths. There is a great future for the lad and I am expecting a lot from him in the future.

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