Two injuries to Ashish Nehra this IPL meant that the responsibility of leading Sunrisers Hyderabad's attack rested on Bhuvneshwar Kumar's shoulders. Not only has he led that attack, he has also topped the wicket-takers' list in this IPL with only one match to go. With 23 wickets and an economy rate of 7.50, Bhuvneshwar said that bowling with Nehra had helped him pick up several things about bowling.
"When you are bowling together there are little things, like how you set the field, what is the strength of which batsman and so how do you bluff him - little things like that which he talked about which has helped," Bhuvneshwar told iplt20.com. "And that is probably what I tried to help [Barinder] Sran with. I know that I can't do what he [Nehra] did with his experience. But I was trying to do and play the role that he did.
"When I came to know that Ashish Nehra is injured, there was a bit of extra load that fell on my shoulders. However, if you see the way Sran responded to the situation was very good. He didn't let the pressure show on him after Nehra's injury."
Bhuvneshwar has taken wickets in the Powerplay, has stifled batsmen in the slog overs and has varied his pace very well, while being accurate, to deceive the batsmen. He said "bluffing" the batsmen played a crucial role in that.
"What happens these days in cricket is that, watching the way you set the field, the batsman knows what you are going to bowl. But as we play more and understand opponents better, we try to bowl against the field that we have set, but not to the extent that it backfires. What we try to do is to be able to bluff the batsman, stop the runs, and get the batsman out."
After conceding only 10 runs in his first two overs against Gujarat Lions in the second Qualifier in Delhi, Bhuvneshwar returned for the 17th and 20th overs. Looking for a late push after Aaron Finch's quickfire fifty, Dwayne Bravo tried to take on Bhuvneshwar in the last over, but failed. Bhuvneshwar followed a first-ball yorker with a slower delivery and then tried another yorker, which accounted for Bravo.
"Bravo was a crucial wicket; he had hit a couple of big boundaries in the earlier over," Bhuvneshwar said. "So I knew that my over was also a crucial one and I was aiming to keep it to eight to 10 runs. If you see we had conceded about 60 runs in the last six overs. When about four overs were left I thought that we shouldn't give away more than 30 or 35 runs but that didn't happen. When it came to Bravo my aim was to try and get him out and not give away more than eight to 10 runs.
"The main thing is to see who the batsman is and bowl accordingly. With Bravo, my effort was in trying to bowl a yorker but on the leg stump as he doesn't hit it so well there. There are little things that you do when you plan for a batsman - like where to bowl a yorker for which batsman, etc. Small things like that matter."
Bhuvneshwar succeeded in sticking to his plan as he conceded eight runs in the final over and finished with figures of 4-0-27-2.
"When you are bowling the death overs, you are bound to concede more runs," he said. "My economy has been around eight runs per over, but I didn't really have much of a problem with that as you bowl a couple of overs upfront and then a couple of overs later. So that is bound to happen. But the good part is that if you take wickets it gets managed. I have been working on that. I know that if I want to be consistent I have to continuously practice what I have been doing."
With swing his weapon in the early overs and yorkers towards the end, Bhuvneshwar has also picked up some pace to add to his arsenal. He credited it to a training programme he has been following since the Sri Lanka tour last year.
"If we talk about pace, we had gone to Sri Lanka a few months back and I started training from there on," he said. "I was put on to this thing called Power Training. Our trainer, Mr. Basu, helped me a lot as well. I followed the programme given by him. Initially I wasn't too convinced with it as it was a bit different but gradually as I got into a route of doing the things he had prescribed, it helped. Now, between games too I do what is needed to maintain things."
Sunrisers will now run into Royal Challengers Bangalore, who have been riding on their batting might, led by in-form batsmen Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. Bhuvneshwar kept it straightforward and said they would have plans for Kohli.
"Everyone knows he is a world-class batsman and the kind of form he is in, it is difficult to bowl to him. But when you are playing against such an opponent, you too want to perform and to get him out. We will definitely have our plans for him. I hope that we will be able to successfully implement our plans."