Bhuvneshwar Kumar: The supporting brick in India's batting lineup
Bhuvneshwar offered solid support to the rampaging Hardik Pandya at Cape Town.
The great Australian side, which dominated world cricket from the mid 1990s till mid 2000s, is arguably the most complete unit that the game has ever seen. In Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist, they had a formidable top six.
In Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, they had two match-winners. These two legends were backed by the likes of Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz and Stuart MacGill.
But in addition to possessing high quality players, they had one other asset; a lower-order capable of hanging in there with the set batsman at the other end.
Usually, this batsman was Gillespie. He might not have been a contender for the most elegant player. But any captain would dearly love to him have in their side for his doggedness and effectiveness.
The present Indian side has its own share of superstars with the bat, capable of winning matches on their own. They also have bowlers who are steadily beginning to match up to the exploits of their batting counterparts.
One player from the latter is, however, starting to really emerge with the bat. Bhuvneshwar Kumar may have contributed just 25 runs with the bat during the second day's play against South Africa at Cape Town.
However, supporters of Indian cricket would look at the effort and say it was worth double or triple that number. With Hardik Pandya going strong at the other end, Bhuvneshwar gave him adequate support to ensure India were not completely out of the game even as the South Africans probed away outside the off-stump.
An ideal foil for the specialists
Like Gillespie, Bhuvneshwar is not an elegant batsman. He does not possess a wide array of strokes nor has the ability to hit giant sixes. But what he does have is the ability to stand still at the crease and rotate the strike, along with putting the bad ball away.
It would actually be not wrong to say that a stalwart like VVS Laxman would have loved to have Bhuvneshwar by his side when he was performing those herculean feats with the bat from the middle-order.
His knock at Cape Town was not the only instance when he played like a supporting brick to a crumbling wall. During the 2014 Lord's Test against England, Bhuvneshwar proved to be the ideal foil for Ajinkya Rahane on a genuine green top.
A year, prior to that, he hung on again, this time with a rampaging MS Dhoni during a crucial opening Test against Australia at Chennai. In both the above cases, a common factor has come to the aid of Bhuvneshwar. He has always had one established batsman, who is well-set at the other end, when his turn to wield the willow has come.
That factor has allowed Bhuvneshwar to play his game, which is defending or leaving the good ball, nudging it away for a single or two or even threading it into the gap for a boundary as and when the chance comes.
While his Test batting numbers may not yet be good enough to term him an all-rounder, an indication as to why he is quite effective with the bat can be gauged by glancing at his first-class numbers. In 68 first-class matches, he has amassed 2332 runs at an average of 26.80. These numbers indicate a player who can be relied upon to score handy runs when the opportunity arises.
Considering how in the past they have fallen like nine-pins when the famed batsmen have gone back to the hut, Bhuvneshwar's exploits with the bat is a huge positive for India. As his career progresses, he can hopefully add a few more shots to his existing armoury and continue providing weight to an already impressive looking second dimension in his game.