Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s return to form plugs the final hole in the Indian bowling unit

When the Indian eleven for their first ICC World Cup 2019 encounter against South Africa was announced, fans were surprised the see the name of seam bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar over Mohammad Shami in the list. Shami, after all, has been in great form for India this year and had already taken 19 wickets in 11 ODIs at an average of 26.42 in 2019. Moreover, Shami has pace and can bowl lethal yorkers.

Bhuvneshwar, on the other hand, had been rather listless in the past twelve months and appeared to have lost much of his zing. In 2018, he had featured in 14 ODIs and managed only 11 wickets in them at a horrible average of 48.81. 2019 was a marked improvement – the seamer had 19 wickets in 10 ODIs before the start of the World Cup. But Shami’s pace and his ability to take crucial wickets made him a certainty in the Indian bowling unit.

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But Indian captain decided to go with Bhuvneshwar Kumar in both of India’s World Cup games so far. While Bhuvi, as he is fondly known, produced a very decent performance against South Africa at Southampton – 44-2 in his ten overs – it was his vital spell against Australia that turned things around for him.

Chasing a daunting target of 353 against India at The Oval, Australia was beginning to look dangerous as Glen Maxwell and Steve Smith started to milking the bowlers for runs. Bhuvneshwar was brought in the 39th over to stem the flow of runs, and he delivered – trapping Steve Smith LBW and then bowling the dangerous Marcus Stoinis with a peach of delivery with the final two balls of the over.

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It was just the kind of breakthrough India looking for. Those two wickets broke the back of the Australian chase, and they went on to lose the match by 36 runs. While other performers like Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, and Hardik Pandya got all the accolades and rightly so, Bhuvi’s spell of 2-50 on a flat surface was of great significance.

He was finally getting the old ball the swing and seam and nailing his in-swingers. It was great to see Bhuvneshwar inflow and make a difference to the team’s bowling unit. Not being able to perform in conditions not conducive to swing bowling has often been Bhuv’s bane. But this performance in a flat track will give him and the team management a lot of confidence.

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If Bhuvneshwar Kumar can continue his form, he can be the final hole that would plug the Indian bowling unit and make it whole. In Jasprit Bumrah they already have the best fast bowler in the world at the moment. Then they have two spin bowlers in their prime – Yuzvendra Chahal and Kulpreet Yadav – doing the duty in the middle overs. With Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav doing a decent job as the 5th bowler, India’s bowling will look extremely potent if Bhuvneshwar, with his experience and cool head, can continue with his rhythm.

There are likely to match further on in the World Cup when there is a generous cloud cover, and Kohli will go for Mohammad Shami too in his eleven. This Indian attack will be then become quite a handful even for the best around.

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