India v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Mirpur March 3, 2016

MS Dhoni pleased with rejuvenated Bhuvneshwar

Bhuvneshwar Kumar sent down 20 dots and took two wickets during his outstanding spell of 4-2-8-2 © AFP

India's victory over UAE was set up by a pristine spell with the new ball by Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He was able to move it both ways, force the batsmen into their shell, and came away with two wickets and 20 dot balls out of his four overs.

Bhuvneshwar is well known for keeping it tight and providing India with early strikes, but in Mirpur he was able to showcase something else he had been working on. Pace. Several of his deliveries were clocked at 140 kph by the speed gun.

Bhuvneshwar had a tough limited-overs series against South Africa in October 2015. He had averaged 49.57 and his economy rate of 7.13 was the worst by a specialist bowler from either side. He conceded 106 runs off his 10 overs, the second-worst figures in an ODI, in the decider in Mumbai.

Since then, he played five List A games for Uttar Pradesh in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and finished with 10 wickets at 15.40 apiece and gave away an average of 3.27 runs per over. His 9-2-25-3 against Tamil Nadu in December 2015 nearly helped Uttar Pradesh defend 168 in the third quarter-final. That performance and his potential kept him in the side for India's tour to Australia, but when flat tracks were rolled out, he was picked for only two ODIs.

While Bhuvneshwar's 4-2-8-2 against UAE, a semi-professional team, whose batting line-up is still very unsure of their strengths, cannot be read into too much, India's captain MS Dhoni was pleased with what he saw.

"He is a hard-working guy," Dhoni said. "He always works hard in the nets and also in the gym and I feel that's something that is important for the fast bowlers, to keep themselves fit and also take the break in the best possible manner. That has actually helped him increase the pace but at the same time, it has not affected his swing bowling.

"That is key, because you don't want to bowl quick but lose that extra movement that you have. So that's a big positive sign for us. And when it comes to his consistency, he is still somebody who bowls very consistently with his line and length. So overall, he has used the break, whether it was forced or when he was out of the side in the best possible manner and also him coming good gives us that extra option in case Shami doesn't get fit, he's somebody who can straight away come in and start doing the work for the team."

UAE's captain Amjad Javed remained upbeat despite the defeat, which was their fourth on the trot in the main draw of the Asia Cup.

Javed reasoned that the effect of merely playing in a tournament along the biggest names in cricket would foster greater interest among the sports-watching public back home.

"When they will be seeing us playing India, their expectation will go sky high," Javed said. They want to become cricketers and follow us, they want to represent UAE; you can get a good cricketer from them.

"Now we should get more international matches, like Zimbabwe, Ireland, Bangladesh … these games will give us the experience of playing at that level. If at some stage in the future we can qualify for the Asia Cup again, it will be easier for us then. The team will have that sort of experience to compete with them."

Since Pakistan use the grounds in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi as their base, Javed also suggested that international teams that tour the UAE should take the time to play against them as well.

"If ICC can really look into this - any team that now comes to Dubai - it's home for Pakistan," Javed said. "It will be good that any international teams that are coming there, they play one 50-over game and one T20 with us. That will be great experience for us and very good for UAE cricket."

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments