Team India currently has one of the best bowling attacks in the world and Bhuvneshwar Kumar believes that one of the reason for the success of the pace battery is the relationship they share which means they do not need to communicate much when attacking the opposition batting line-up.
“It doesn’t matter who is bowling from the other end. Because I have to do what I have to do. But since both Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah are senior players, in a few words we are able to communicate with each other what the batsman is trying to do. It is like our bowling partnership. We don’t have to tell each other much. We make a conscious effort to bowl well and maintain the pressure from both ends,” he said in the second episode of ESPNcricinfo Cricketbaazi.
Statistics show that Bhuvneshwar has a better strike rate and a better economy rate when bowling second as compared to bowling first in ODIs. Bhuvnenshwar thinks it is subconscious and not a preference. “Subconsciously you tend to go into a defensive mode bowling second. It’s not like you don’t want to pick wickets, but the mindset is defensive. Your length remains the same, your run-up is the same, but somewhere I feel it’s all about the field position. I feel defending or attacking depends on your field placement. If you want to attack, you’ll have slips in place. If not, then you’ll have a sweeper cover. So that impacts the mindset.
“I think it’s subconscious. Like how a batsman knows the target while chasing along with the balls and wickets remaining, somewhere for a bowler also he knows when the opposition is chasing 350, the batsmen will take chances against you, so you try to bowl more variations to deceive the batsmen, and from the first ball your mindset is clear that you have to defend the target. Sometimes it happens that you’ve been dismissed for a score of under 200, and as a bowler you know you have to go for wickets. The mindset is different then as you have to bowl to pick wickets, and the captain and management know as well that this is the plan and it’s all right if a few runs are leaked in the process.”
Commenting on his debut, Bhuvneshwar said: “My India debut was in the T20I series against Pakistan, just before the ODIs. When I got to know that I was playing the next day, contrary to the sleeplessness that others go through, I slept very well. I don’t know how, but I slept really well. But when I woke up the next morning, I felt nervous. It was a night match, so I could feel the anxiety for 5-6 hours that I had after waking up until the start of the game. There so many thoughts. But once I entered the field, it felt very normal. I also motivated myself by repeating that I have played so much of first-class cricket over the years and have also observed the players from Uttar Pradesh who have played for India. And it helped.”
Talking about the 2014 tour of England, Bhuvi said: “I was confident that will get assistance to swing the ball. And my confidence gets a boost whenever that happens because I have done that all my life. Before that series, I had played about 11 to 12 Tests, and all of them were in India. Give the conditions in India, I didn’t get to bowl much in those games. So somewhere I was excited that I would be etested’ over five days of cricket and do what I had done for so many years in first-class cricket. I was nervous as well. But like I said earlier, if a few of your initial deliveries go well, your confidence gets a boost. And in that series the first couple of matches were very good from my individual performance perspective.”
The tag of a eswing bowler’ never bothered Bhuvneshwar. “This tag was associated with me for about two years when my pace was not that much. It was slightly lesser than what was considered decent for an international bowler. But I was able to get more swing because of this. Everyone has a strength as a player and I realized that swing is my strength.” He adds, “Although, I wanted to increase my pace, but not at the cost of my ability to swing. And the process to increase your pace is to pay attention to your fitness, train harder in the gym, which I did. I tweaked my workout along with the team’s new trainer. This training was different and helped me increase my pace. And that’s when my body also adapted and helped in the process.”
Fast bowlers have a different mindset as against swing bowlers, so did the increase in pace change his mindset too. Bhuvneshwar says, “In 2015, in the series against South Africa in India, I realized that my pace had increased. I usually bowled at 130-132 kmph on an average, but in that series it went up to 137-138 kmph. And for me it was a big shift. But I never went with a mindset that I have to bounce the batsmen out.” He adds, “I actually struggled a bit in that series, because I was doing something which wasn’t my strength. Not because I had started bowling very fast, but my body made me realize that I was bowling fast. I thought it was decent enough pace to get the ball to swing and after the series I worked on it. Luckily, I was aware of my strength e getting the ball to swing e and gradually, at 135-138 kmph, I was able to get the desired swing which helped me gain confidence.”
Talking about the current situation and how is he keeping himself motivated, Bhuvneshwar says, “I was very motivated for the first 15 days of the lockdown. No one knew how long it would last and I didn’t have any equipment to exercise at home either. We thought things would get better in a couple of months. I did body weight workouts to keep myself fit. But after 15 days, I started finding it difficult to motivate myself. I then ordered equipment at home and things have improved since. We, or I rather, generally give excuses that I don’t have enough time to improve my fitness. Even after the lockdown, if I give the same excuse, others will say that I only give excuses. So, I am working on coming out of this lockdown as a better version of myself. On-field performance is different, but I can work on my fitness, or my athletic ability, or gaining more strength. I have almost stopped playing PubG but I still play PlayStation with my friends,” he added.