Dale Steyn: 'More confident' Bhuvneshwar Kumar has found the missing ingredient
"When we got to the IPL, he seemed to have upped his pace. He was operating between 133 and 137, sometimes touching 140"
Dale Steyn thinks Bhuvneshwar Kumar has found what was missing from his bowling a couple of months ago. According to Steyn, who worked with Bhuvneshwar as Sunrisers Hyderabad's bowling coach at IPL 2022, the seamer is determined to prove he is still a force to reckon with.
Steyn's comments came after the India seamer picked up 4 for 13 against South Africa in the second T20I in Cuttack. On a helpful pitch, he picked up three wickets inside the powerplay to dent South Africa's chase of 149. Reeza Hendricks and Rassie van der Dussen were bowled through the gate while Dwaine Pretorius was tricked by a knuckle ball. That gave India a shot at victory but Heinrich Klaasen's 46-ball 81 denied them.
"It's not easy to run in and bowl those knuckle balls," Steyn said on ESPNcricinfo's analysis show T20 Time:Out. "It takes a lot of confidence and skill to bowl a knuckle ball. And Bhuvi has clearly got all of that. It's no surprise that he has bowled as well as he has tonight. He is that good.
"He was lacking something a couple of months ago and he seems to have found it now. He looks a lot more confident now. When I was with him at the IPL a couple of months back, it looked like he had lost a little bit of pace. He was operating between that 125 to 130kph, especially at the T20 World Cup in Dubai [the UAE]. When we got to the IPL, he seemed to have upped his pace a little bit. He was operating between 133 and 137, sometimes touching 140, you know the one odd ball.
"He played every game at the IPL. He knew he was going to play and he was able to showcase his skills. He got some rhythm, he got some form, and bang."
Steyn also revealed that Bhuvneshwar told him his goal for IPL 2022 was to finish as the leading wicket-taker of the season. While Bhuvneshwar ended with just 12 wickets from 14 games, he had an excellent economy rate of 7.34.
Bhuvneshwar's determination, Steyn says, will also help him cement his place in India's side for the T20 World Cup. At the moment, Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel are the only seamers who could be considered certainties in the first XI.
"I asked him [Bhuvneshwar] if he had got any goals for the IPL," Steyn said, "and he secretly said to me, 'I would like to win the purple cap again.' And I was like this is fantastic. It just shows that this guy is determined and he wants to prove, not just to India but to the world, that he is still pretty much a force to reckon with.
"I think that kind of extends to what could potentially happen for him later on this year. I mean he could really get a nod and go to the World Cup. He certainly understands his game, he knows when to train, he is confident in his skill and he has got these little goals that he didn't really have to tell anybody but he would mention it every now and then that I could hear."
In the last few years, Bhuvneshwar has been troubled by a back injury, a hamstring injury and a thigh injury, but Steyn feels the seamer has been managing his body pretty well now.
"He didn't really come to any training sessions [at the IPL] because he was just managing his body, trusting himself," Steyn said. "The day of the game he would walk to the middle and bowl probably three to four overs of warm-up before the game started, and just be a true professional.
"He might have been coming back from an injury but he managed himself so well through the IPL - played all the games and bowled well in all of the games and now is able to just carry on that kind of momentum."
Wasim Jaffer, Steyn's co-analyst at the show, agreed with Steyn's overall assessment. "I think he [Bhuvneshwar] has been very impressive right from that West Indies series," Jaffer said. "With that control, swing and the lengths he hit, we could see the old Bhuvneshwar Kumar in that series.
"I think it's the simplicity with which he goes about his business [that makes him special]. The control he has, the variations he has, and to execute those variations in high-pressure games, it just shows how confident he is."