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Sriram Veera in Hyderabad
January 12, 2009
Save it in your fancy phone or write it down somewhere, because you won't want to forget Bhuvneshwar Kumar's name. It's certain to come up in a trivia quiz years later or win you a bet and an extra drink in some noisy bar. Who was the bowler who handed Sachin Tendulkar his first duck in Indian domestic cricket? Even if he doesn't take a single wicket after this game, the 18-year old Bhuvneshwar's name won't be forgotten by cricket tragics.
Last night, Bhuvaneshwar was dreaming about taking "Paaji's" wicket. "It's the first time I am bowling to him [Tendulkar] and I started thinking how it would feel if I end up taking his wicket." Flash back to the Australian spinner Arthur Mailey, who as a teenager found himself a nervous wreck at the thought of bowling to his favourite player, Victor Trumper. And in the end when Mailey achieved his dream, he felt like a "boy who killed a dove" and later produced one of, if not the finest, cricket pieces ever written by a player.
Bhuvneshwar, in his first year BA, didn't share that sentimentality. Nor was he allowed to, mobbed immediately by his raucous back-slapping Uttar Pradesh team-mates and later by his friends and family. His phone was constantly busy for nearly two hours. When it finally went through, Def Leppard sang, "But you can't have it all. Whatever you do, I'll be two steps behind you."
Last evening, before he retired to his room to start dreaming, Bhuvneshwar had a chat with Ashish Winston Zaidi, the former domestic workhorse and current UP manager. Here's what he was told: "Tendulkar jaan thodi ley lega. Jyaada sey jyaada che chakke padenge, aur kya?" (Is Tendulkar going to take your life? In the worst scenario you will get hit for six sixes!)".
Adds Zaidi: "Main usko chadaya (I just keyed him up). His strength is with the new ball and he keeps the ball full, lands it on a spot and move it both ways. I just told him not to try anything different or special. Just fix a spot and bowl there."
Today, Bhuvneshwar's 14th delivery at Tendulkar fetched him the dream wicket. It was full, the seam rushed across through the air straight before cutting in sharply to kiss the edge, on to the pad before popping up to a tumbling short midwicket.
Later, he said he was thrilled to attend his first press conference and tried his best to convey what the wicket meant to him. Unlike most of his team-mates, Bhuvneshwar's cricket didn't flourish in the famed cricket hostels, but he did learn his cricket under the same man, Vipin Vats, who taught Praveen Kumar. While Praveen is struggling to get his swing going after 30 months of relentless cricket, Bhuvneshwar is enjoying a fine season.It was his sister Rekha who convinced his father, a sub-inspector, and took him to trials in 2003 in Meerut to kickstart his dream of playing cricket.
It's too early to say what the future holds for the boy. He lacks pace and is yet to learn how to bowl effectively with the old ball but he has made a tiny and memorable step with a five-wicket haul in the Ranji Trophy final. He was on a hat-trick too and produced his best ball - a big inswinger - but Ajit Agarkar played killjoy. Zaidi is confident that with some physical work Bhuvneshwar's pace and bowling will improve.
In the here and now, he is busy answering his phone and trying to cope up with missed calls. "Your call is waiting, please stay online." Well, Tendulkar didn't make him wait long and made his day.
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?