Bhuvneshwar Kumar claimed his fourth five-wicket haul    AFP
Bhuvneshwar Kumar claimed his fourth five-wicket haul AFP

Irrespective of where they are playing, for India to have one of their bowlers taking bulk of the wickets, who is not a spinner, is a rare moment to cherish. The achievement becomes even more special if it is a bowler who is constantly rediscovering himself and his art, as not long ago, it was the common belief that he had lost it. In the last Indian season, when South Africa were being battered by the hosts spinners, the Indian seamers hardly took any wickets; it was Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja all the way. However, the scene was a lot different on the second day of the second Test between India and New Zealand, when Bhuvneshwar Kumar claimed his fourth five-wicket haul of his Test career. Full Cricket Scorecard, India Vs New Zealand 2nd Test at Kolkata

It was the first time since Mohammed Shami who is also playing the ongoing Test took 5 for 47 against West Indies in the farewell Test series for Sachin Tendulkar. It has been close to three years since the master has walked away from the international stage, but it actually has been that long for the Indian seamers to mark their territory at home. Invariably, the spinners have been the driving force for the Indian cricket team at home and even abroad (Sri Lanka tour 2015). On Saturday, as Bhuvneshwar rocked the New Zealand batting line-up with some disciplined seam bowling, the Indian camp would certainly have been pleased to see one of their seam bowlers coming to the party and for that matter, taking off some amount of pressure from the spin duo of Ashwin and Jadeja.

It has not been the case that the Eden Gardens pitch for the ongoing Test has been assisting the fast bowlers more than the spinners; it is just that the Kiwis have failed to extract anything out of it. There is a tinge of grass and uneven bounce in the wicket, which is also helpful to the batsmen who are ready to drop the anchor, apply and make runs. Ask Ross Taylor, who looked out of sorts in South Africa and in the first Test in India, but did extremely well to last long for as many as 80 deliveries, scoring 36 runs with the help of 5 boundaries.

The fact that Bhuvneshwar has rediscovered himself as a bowler is something which was widely acknowledged in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2016, when in a tournament generally dominated by batsmen, he was able to make a distinct impression of himself. Playing a key role in the title win for the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), the right-arm seamer ended as the winner of the Purple Cap , snaffling 23 wickets in 17 games with one four-wicket haul. Bhuvneshwar s prowess with the white ball still did not indicate that he would do well in Test cricket as well, but with the bowler being more assured of himself and his skills, it was only a matter of time for him to start taking wickets with the red ball.

The third Test between India and West Indies at Gros Islet was the game in which Bhuvneshwar re-announced himself in the Test arena. Replying to India s daunting total of 353, the West Indies had made a strong start. Somehow, the Indians were able to pull things back in control after the Caribbean side made a strong start. Ashwin and Ishant Sharma provided a wicket each, but it was Bhuvneshwar who ran through the hosts with a splendid bowling performance, dismissing the West Indies for 225, helping India take a lead of 128 runs and thus setting up a massive victory by 237 runs. Bhuvneshwar s control over the red ball was exemplary, and it was this game that indicated that once India s biggest hope in the seam bowling arena, he is not lost.

Bhuvneshwar s fourth five-wicket haul may have been the first since Shami, but it is a fact that India have not played a lot of cricket at home in the last two or three years makes this performance more special. If the pitch at the Eden Gardens is to be assessed, it can be said that it is helpful to the spinners as much as it has been for the fast bowlers. Matt Henry showed that the pitch could be helpful to the seamers with 3 wickets on the first day, but it was Bhuvneshwar who really made it count.

“In India you rarely get this kind of wicket, so I wanted to make full use of it,” Bhuvneshwar said at the end of the game. The assessment is spot-on, since the ball has swung dangerously on both the days and has bounced unevenly as well. Bhuvneshwar was certainly excited to see the wicket having grass as well as bounce, and he made a promise to himself which he did fulfil. “It was one of my dreams to take five wickets in India. When I saw that the wicket would help me, I told myself I want to take five wickets. I really wanted to make use of the opportunity and I’m very happy with how I bowled, he said.

Bhuvneshwar might have registered his fourth five-wicket haul, but the fact that he was assisted by some poor shot selections by the Kiwis batsmen should take some sheen off it. Ross Taylor was unsure as neither he looked moving on the front foot nor going back, and edged a straight delivery which was not harming him at all. Two batsmen out of the five dismissed by the Indian seamer Martin Guptill and Henry Nicholls were guilty of played-on, which only added more pressure on the New Zealand team. However, the two deliveries off which Bhuvneshwar removed Mitchell Santner and Henry were truly special. Santner had one angled into him which he could not prevent hitting him on the pads, and Henry saw the ball nipping back in to him and keeping a little low as well.

Nevertheless, Bhuvneshwar’s five-wicket haul has put India in a position from where they can aim for a lead in excess of 150 runs. If that happens, New Zealand will have a very tough time keeping the series alive.

(Devarchit Varma is senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)