A fast bowler’s journey in international cricket is much tougher than that of a batsman or spinner. For one thing, it takes a lot of physical effort to send down delivery after delivery. The other disconcerting thing is that it’s a journey full of injuries, full of surgeries and once when one goes under the knife, mind you, body is never the same. After being on the sidelines on account of injury, it’s never easy to come back so it requires a lot of mental toughness.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar typifies that mental toughness. Returning from a thigh injury that he picked up during last year’s Indian Premier League and having played no international cricket since December 2019, it was always going to be difficult for him but the way he bowled in the T20I series against England, particularly in the last match on Saturday, speaks a great deal about his fortitude and skills that often take a lifetime to develop.
On a pitch where the bowlers met their Waterloo, Bhuvneshwar stood out and it was his spell (4-0-15-2) that well and truly made the difference as England, chasing 225 to win, fell short by 36 runs to lose the rubber 3-2.
The 31-year-old put on a clinic as to how to vary pace and what’s the best line and length to hit when the opposition batsmen are brandishing their bats relentlessly at the other end.
It was not the first time that Bhuvi won a game for India, he has many since his international debut in 2012. What his Saturday’s performance has done is that it has reminded us how he has evolved all these years through thick and thin without compromising his dignity and class.
When we first described him, we all could make out that he could swing the ball real big either way, and he deservedly enjoyed early success. The apprehension though at the time was: what if he loses his swing like Irfan Pathan or it becomes less effective after the opposition had taken his measure? And since he had no real pace to speak of, how long could he sustain on ever-flattening pitches the world over?
And those apprehensions did come true not long after his high-flying start to international cricket as his swing was not producing desired results anymore, and then in order to increase his pace he, sort of, lost it altogether and his future looked real bleak at that time.
Character always manifests itself at cul-de-sac when it seems there is no way forward. He honed his bowling through the IPL, increased his pace considerably often hitting 140+ clicks. Lost some of his swing in the process but retained enough to be bothersome. Learnt to bowl masterfully at the death too.
Bhuvi has been a reliable bowling force some years now. He has tasted great success both in the IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad and in international cricket but he remains unassuming. He looks the same as he did eight years ago and every time he walks into the field in India colours it appears as if he is on his debut all over again. There are no signs of overconfidence or even confidence, if truth be told, but still he goes on and on seamlessly producing top performances, one after the other.
There are no tattoos and ear-piercing to speak of - from all appearances. In the coiffure department too, he is a simpleton. No picture of him on social media driving a flashy car or wearing an expensive watch either. And if you happen to find some, they are merely accidental without him having any part in their promotion. He is all substance, the bowlers’ Rahul Dravid -- to all intents and purposes. He is a star but doesn’t act like one. If budding Indian bowlers need a role model, they need look no further than Bhuvi, who personifies hardwork and modesty through and through.