India’s One-Day International (ODI) series against Australia has been all about which team can score more on a given day. The bowlers have almost been completely helpless and have conceded bucket-loads of runs. One bowler, however, has been relatively parsimonious: Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He has not given over six runs per over in any of the matches he has played. But the flip side is that he has only taken two wickets in five matches. Shrikant Shankar explains why the young seamer needs to quickly become a wicket-taker rather just containing the batsmen.
If there is one thing common in India’s almost concluded One-Day International (ODI) series against Australia, is that bowlers from either side have been taken to the cleaners. Barring one match, the Indian bowlers have conceded over 300 runs in every match they have played so far. The exception was in the fourth ODI at Ranchi, where they conceded 295 runs. The only bowler who has not given away either six or more runs an over in any of the matches is Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
The seamer opens the bowling and generally bowls with a new ball that has not been affected too much. With the two-ball rule in play, Bhuvneshwar has one ball all to himself in his first spell. Interestingly, his first spell is invariably very long; MS Dhoni has at times made him bowl eight overs on-the-trot. He is rarely used in the final overs and has not been used to batsmen throwing their bats at everything.
But he is India’s strike bowler at the moment. With important Test series coming against West Indies and South Africa, Bhuvneshwar needs to improve on his wicket-taking ability. For someone who has played 21 ODIs as of November 1, 2013, Bhuvneshwar has only taken 27 wickets. The interesting thing is that his strike-rate is 4.25. That is staggering considering the era he plays in, where 300-plus scores are easily chased, let alone posted at first.
Bhuvneshwar’s situation is a little more like Irfan Pathan when the left-arm seamer made early strides in international cricket. Bhuvneshwar has gained a habit of taking wickets early in his spell — very similar to Irfan. But again, like Irfan, he too does not pick up many towards the end. With none of India’s seamers stamping their authority in recent months and with Zaheer Khan still kept away from the Indian team, Bhuvneshwar has the golden chance to not only be India’s premier bowler, but also a genuine wicket-taker.
The right-arm seamer can swing the ball both ways and in conditions that are far more helpful for bowlers, he can be the ideal foil for Dhoni. For long, India have relied on their batsman to bail them out of sticky situations and they have done so on most occasions. But if India are serious contenders to become the world’s No 1 Test team again and more importantly defend their World Cup crown in Australia and New Zealand in 2015, then Bhuvneshwar and Company need to be more effective.
The advantage Bhuvneshwar has is that, as mentioned above, he does not concede many runs. But it is imperative that he starts taking more wickets and risk a little more for that. Ishant Sharma has lost his way far too many times. The onus, thus, is on Bhuvneshwar to become India’s strike bowler.
(Shrikant Shankarpreviously worked with Mobile ESPN, where he did audio commentary for many matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20. He has also written many articles involving other sports for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)