Bhuvneshwar Kumar credited B Arun, India’s bowling coach, for helping the paceman add a few yards to his bowling while maintaining prodigious swing.
Bhuvneshwar, who was on the sidelines not long ago for not being able to find the right balance between swing and pace, has cemented his spot in the side with impressive performances with the ball over the last three series.
The extra pace and late movement helped him settle into a lead role with the new ball against Sri Lanka, Australia and now New Zealand. To add to his already burgeoning portfolio, Bhuvneshwar has also become a much better bowler in the death.
“As you play, you grow up as a player. I have improved a lot in the last couple of years as a bowler. I have added a bit of pace but haven’t lost my swing. That’s something which I am really happy about,” he said, speaking to reporters on Saturday (October 28) in Kanpur.
“At this level you don’t want to get into too much technique but he (Arun) is the one who studies a lot and he is very good at managing bowlers. He pin points things that really help improve your bowling. When I added pace (earlier), I lost my swing a bit. But he gave me suggestions, pointed some small things which I couldn’t catch. In getting my swing back he has a big role in it.”
Bhuvneshwar was the chief architect in India’s six-wicket win in Pune. His figures of 3 for 45 from 10 overs helped India restrict New Zealand to 230 for 9 before the hosts went on to chase down the lowly total on a placid strip. The win not on saw India return to winning ways but also helped them level the three-match series. India had lost the opener in Mumbai by six wickets.
India haven’t found themselves in this position for a while now where they’re clawing their way back into the series. It certainly has something to do with how well New Zealand have countered the hosts.
Trent Boult and Tim Southee have been able to match Bhuvneshwar and Jasprit Bumrah, while Tom Latham and Ross Taylor have been able to make up for the failings of Kane Williamson. Even Latham’s mastery of the sweep shot in the first match in Mumbai against the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, who had bamboozled Australia just a month back, drew praise. But Bhuvneshwar was careful in pointing the finger more at the shorter series rather than the challenge of their opponents for the situation India are in.
“As you said we have not been challenged much so far. But this is a short series and we were a bit under pressure going into the second match. We were one down and if we had lost the second, the series would have been lost.”
Bhuvneshwar also brushed aside claims that a short series merited a different mental approach. Before coming into this series, India played a five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka and then Australia, all in a span of three months.
“Yes it’s a (short) series but the mental approach has been the same as it is in other series. We wanted to win the series but as I said we have not been challenged at home. It’s been a pressure situation in the last match and in this one as well because we don’t want to lose a home series no matter what. So we have to do our best to win the series.”
India would do well to draw on the memory of when they were in a similar situation, needing to win in Visakhapatnam after New Zealand levelled the series 2-2 last season. While Bhuvneshwar didn’t bring that particular game up, his sentiments ahead of the third match were a clue as to what the hosts, who have won 18 out of their last 25 ODIs, might be feeling.
“This is again a pressure game, it’s a decider. It matters that how we prepare for the match, our preparation for each match has been good. We will try and repeat what we did in the last match. Whatever our strategy and planning was there it’s important that we do it again.”
When asked about the strategy and selection and whether they would switch things up, like they did for the second ODI by bringing in Axar Patel for Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar was tight-lipped, and directed attention to the Kanpur pitch, which will be under much scrutiny after the Pandurang Salgaonkar scandal. But one thing he was certain of was that the weather wouldn’t be quite as humid.
“We can’t decide that. The captain and coach will decide what to do in the team meeting and form strategy accordingly. The conditions will be cold here, a bit different (to Mumbai and Pune). But it will be difficult for me to say what is better for us, whether to bowl first or not. Yes, the ball will swing in these conditions but only after seeing the pitch will we decide what to do,” he mused.
Bhuvneshwar has occasionally shared the new ball with Boult, in Sunrisers Hyderabad colours in the Indian Premier League, and commented that playing with overseas players was a double-edged sword — helping both sides understand their opponents better.
“Definitely, we make use of that experience. If you see in the previous series, we have played against Australians also. When you form a strategy or do planning, you do keep it in mind that we have played with and against these players in IPL, so somewhere it becomes easy. Not just for us, but for them also. Whatever you plan can be countered by them because they know us well too. It’s both advantageous and disadvantageous.”
For now, the UP-born bowler is just happy playing whenever he can, and insists he doesn’t feel tired.
“That’s something (rest) which is not in my hand. I am not tired at the moment. I won’t say I need rest but that’s a rotation policy that the BCCI and selectors have,” he said.