Bhuvneshwar Kumar needs to deliver the goods for India in England © Getty Images
Bhuvneshwar Kumar is the bowler most likely to lead India’s bowling attack at the start of their five-match Test series against England. His abilities to swing the ball will be of utmost importance on friendly surfaces. But his returns weren’t good in India’s tour match against Leicestershire. Shrikant Shankar believes if India are to achieve positive results in England, then Bhuvneshwar has to be in top form.
As India’s tour match against Leicestershire ended, one fact came out glaringly. India’s bowlers are not top class when it comes to Test cricket. Sure it was only a tour match, but these thoughts have been in the minds of the ones following the game for a while. It has been long since India won a Test series away from home. In fact, it has been almost an equal time before India won a Test away from home. Bowlers are supposed to win Test matches by taking 20 wickets. India’s bowlers do not seem like doing so.
Sri Lanka beat England 1-0 in the recent Test series. But a stronger Indian team on paper still does not give the impression of pulling off a similar heist. India have selected seven seam/swing bowlers in their enormous squad for the tour of England. All the seven bowled in the tour match against Leicestershire. Only three wickets fell to those bowlers. Ishant Sharma got two wickets, but received a pasting from Angus Robson and Greg Smith. Another bowler who proved to be expensive was Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The swing bowler gave away 46 runs off seven overs at an economy-rate of 6.57.
While one could make out that the pitch at Grace Road was more suited to the batsmen, there was still enough in it for the bowlers. Bhuvneshwar is India’s attack leader and the conditions in England, according to history, favour his type of swing bowling. Bhuvneshwar could not get his length right throughout his seven-over spell. He bowled far too full in search of swing and got hammered by Robson, who scored 126 off 146 deliveries. Bhuvneshwar conceded 10 fours in those seven overs — that is far too many for an international bowler.
The spinners bail the swing/seam bowlers out in Indian conditions on a regular basis. But overseas, especially in England, the faster bowlers must be the ones taking the wickets. Ishant had a very good Test series away against New Zealand, but one really doesn’t know what to expect from him after all these years. Mohammed Shami and Varun Aaron are relatively new to international cricket, but they offer some pace. Bhuvneshwar, though, doesn’t bowl that quickly. His 80 mph deliveries are not going to trouble many batsmen, even if he does swing the ball.
Bhuvneshwar has to find the right lengths and surprise the batsmen with his ability to swing the ball both ways without much change in his bowling action. England lost the Test series against Sri Lanka, but many of their batsmen got in amongst the runs with some centuries. India are well capable of letting the likes of Alastair Cook, who has been out of form, to score the big runs again. Bhuvneshwar has proved to be less useful when the ball becomes old, so, it is imperative for him to take the wickets upfront.
His form in Test cricket too has not been great. He didn’t play a single Test match against South Africa and New Zealand away in the past one year. While one does not expect him to run through batting line-ups [although that would be welcomed], Bhuvneshwar needs to do his bit by taking wickets at the top. If Bhuvneshwar is in form during the five-Test series against England, then India have a better chance of getting some positive results in the much-awaited Test series.
Catch all details of India’s tour of England here
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)