West Indies v India, tri-series, Port-of-Spain

What makes Bhuvneshwar a threat?

On the face of it Bhuvneshwar Kumar has no quality that's likely to catch a layman's fancy. But face him with a bat in hand and you'll know his worth

Aakash Chopra at Queen's Park Oval

July 6, 2013

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Bhuvneshwar Kumar had Chris Gayle caught behind, West Indies v India, West Indies tri-series, Port of Spain, July 5, 2013
The seam movement Bhuvneshwar Kumar manages is good enough to trouble the best © AFP
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If you were to make an assessment about a fast bowler, from a distance, what are the attributes that are likely to catch your eye? The first few would be a fast run-up, high jump, strong action, pace and bounce.

Those are exactly the virtues you won't find in India's best strike bowler at the moment. He gives the impression of just ambling in; his feet barely leave the ground as he loads up in his action. And since most of the time batsmen are on the front foot, it all gives the impression of a lack of pace. The wicketkeeper rarely collects his deliveries with the fingers pointing up, so even the bounce he gets isn't appreciable.

Prima facie, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has no quality that's likely to catch a layman's fancy. But to know his real worth, you need to stand at the other end with a bat in your hand. That's when you realise how one of the most innocuous-looking bowlers is also one of the toughest to handle, especially if he has the new ball and the pitch has a little bit of assistance for seamers.

So what makes Bhuvneshwar a serious threat?

Bowling close to the stumps and a high-arm action
Bhuvneshwar's approach to the crease reminds me of the great Shaun Pollock. Just like the South African, he gets really close to the stumps. The closer the bowler gets to the stumps, the tougher it gets for the batsman, for there are less pronounced angles to play with. The line of the ball is always in line with the stumps, which means the batsman has no choice but to play at most deliveries.

And if the positioning on the crease is complemented with a high-arm action, like it is for Bhuvneshwar, the problems increase manifold: you, as a batsman, can't play inside or outside the line of the delivery as you would for someone bowling with a round-arm action or from wide of the crease.

For example, if Lasith Malinga was bowling from close to the stumps with a new ball, a right-hand batsman would play outside the line of the bal, assuming that the ball would swing away from him. Similarly, you would play inside the line while facing Makhaya Ntini to account for the acute angle he created by bowling from the edge of the box.

Strong wrist position
The best way to swing the ball in the air and to get lateral movement off the deck is to release the ball with the seam bolt upright. The more still the seam is in the air, the better the chances that it will not only deviate in the air but also hit the pitch on the seam and dart around. While it sounds quite simple in theory, it's extremely difficult to execute, for to keep the seam upright at the point of release, the wrist needs to be strong and also right behind the ball. That's what Bhuvneshwar has; his immense control over his wrist allows him to not only release the ball with the seam upright but also allows him to make subtle changes (like pointing it towards slips or fine leg) by tilting his wrist to move the ball both ways. If you're able to do that with control, you will trouble the best batsmen.

A full length
Bhuvneshwar has neither the pace of Umesh Yadav nor the bounce of Ishant Sharma. What he does have is an understanding of the importance of hitting the right length time and again. He realises that since his strength is movement, he needs to pitch it a lot fuller, for the longer the ball stays in the air, the better the chances of it moving. Also, it's a length that batsmen, especially openers, hate in the early part of an innings. Bhuvneshwar is not afraid of being hit through the line and that quality allows him to find edges often, for it isn't possible for batsmen to always keep middling the ball when it is swinging.

While the match between West Indies and India is likely to be remembered for Virat Kohli's scintillating century, not mentioning the spell of quality bowling by Bhuvneshwar would be a grave injustice, for Chris Gayle, Darren Bravo and Kieron Pollard - the batsmen he dismissed - had the ability of changing the complexion, and perhaps the result, of the game.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by   on (July 10, 2013, 16:33 GMT)

The thing that stands out to me is how down to earth he is. So far he has shown no attitude, his celebrations after taking wickets arent over the top. His down to earth nature really shone through in the Champions League celebration, where some of our players were showing off their dance moves, and tried to become the centre of attention; He happily went through the whole thing with a smile, and no attitude. His attitude is what will make him a great player. I don't see him changing much with fame, he reminds me of Dravid in many ways. Let's hope he remains injury free.

Posted by santhu_lm on (July 10, 2013, 6:29 GMT)

Superb article at the right time. Best thing is on the same day Bhuvaneshwar kumar has taken india to Final of the triangular series by taking 4 wickets.

Posted by MelbourneMiracle on (July 9, 2013, 11:09 GMT)

Let's see what BK can do today?

Posted by Pavinasen on (July 9, 2013, 5:44 GMT)

Good analysis ,so that is why Bhuvaneshwar Kumar takes early wickets.He is going to be a big time player for india.He woould have been sorely missed in the India vs SL game.This is his chance in the coming game to prove how much he has been missed.

Posted by TRAM on (July 9, 2013, 3:02 GMT)

There are many bowlers such as Sreesanth, PK, IPathan, etc, swinging the ball both ways and bowling around 130. Sure there are. But Bhuvi has the 2 main ingredients: 1. Intelligence to set the batsman up (clear plan for each batsman). 2. Ability to pitch the ball on the exact spot (execution). First one comes by experience & exposure. Second one comes ONLY by sheer hard work - which is lacking in other bowlers and Bhuvi has it. Keep it up BK !

Posted by Prateek_PJ on (July 8, 2013, 6:31 GMT)

One more great thing about this strike bowler is that he can bat also. Can contribute with bat also when in need.

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Aakash ChopraClose
Aakash Chopra Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.
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