Bhuvneshwar Kumar: The Player who was missed more with the Bat than the Ball
The exuberance of the valiant hundreds from opener KL Rahul and wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant was short-lived, as the Indian tail was cleaned up cheaply for the umpteenth occasion.
Traditionally, typecasted as a powerhouse of batting talents, India's woes have ironically shifted from their bowling to their batting. While the bowling line-up has emerged as a lethal and fiercely competitive unit, capable of taking 20 wickets on overseas track, the batsmen seem to have forgotten the art to muster courage at crucial junctures.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has matured from a young colt, weaving mastery over the bowl to the leader of the pack who can create a stir in the opposition's line up. An exponent of swinging the cherry both the ways, Bhuvi's absence from the longest format came as a setback for India's endeavor to surge their dominance on English turf. However, the best ever generation of Indian pace attack looked well equipped to deal with the void created by his absence.
However, considering the aftermath of the series, it seems like India missed Bhuvneshwar more with the bat than with the ball.
Team India currently comprises of a largely young and inexperienced squad, with very limited encounters of foreign conditions. The swing on English turf, the pace and bounce on the pitches Down Under, and the turn on the subcontinental track requires multiple encounters to evaluate and execute. However, more than anything else, it is the belief, tenacity and forbearance that is required to succeed at the highest level.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has graduated from the swing sensation of India to a capable and reliable batsman in the tail, whose stoic resistance down the order ends up frustrating the opposition. Bhuvi's adaption to the situation and promise of infallibility enables the other batsmen to play their shots and steer the team out of troubled waters.
At times, it is not about the ability to do a task. It is about the willingness to do it. And the 28-year old has exhibited the willingness time and again, on home as well as away tracks, in the face of adverse circumstances.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar got involved in a class act of a 140-run partnership for the ninth wicket with MS Dhoni, on his Test debut, which ended up as the decisive moment in the match. In the disastrous tour of England in 2014, Bhuvi ended up as the fourth highest run scorer of India with 247 runs and three fifties, ahead of the likes of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara.
Remaining unavailable in the longest format due to injuries, Bhuvneshwar continued his rich vein of form in the willow in the limited overs fixtures. He got involved in another heroic stand with MS Dhoni, stitching a 100-run partnership for the eighth wicket against Sri Lanka, with their spinners breathing fire.
When overseas assignments called in South Africa, Kumar once again responded in a similar fashion- with courage and self-confidence beaming amidst adversities. On the tracks where quality batsmen from both the sides failed to make an impact, Bhuvi's contributions of 30 odd in almost every innings were worth their weight in gold. In fact, his exploits with the bat were crucial in wrapping up a famous win at Johannesburg.
In this series against England, it was 'the tale of the tails', as the English tail continuously haunted India, while the Indian tail, failed even to hang around, let alone stamping an impression.
Bhuvneshwar's absence was missed dearly, especially in the Edgbaston and Southampton Tests, where the team fell shy of mediocre targets, attributable to lack of patience and poor shot selection.
Thus, over a course of time, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has transitioned himself from a potent bowler, to a handy lower order batsman and an electric fielder, to become an indispensable asset for Indian cricket.
It is prudent to take good care of his fitness to enable him to take the field on big occasions, as he is in the thick of things for India in all formats.