On August 28, when Bhuvneshwar Kumar took 4-26 to play a key role in India’s thrilling five-wicket win over arch-rivals Pakistan in the Asia Cup at Dubai, few thought that, with just a month left before their 2022 T20 World Cup opener against the same opponents, India’s sole ‘T20 specialist’ bowler would become a source of one of India’s biggest worries.
In three out of India’s last four matches, Bhuvneshwar has been taken to the cleaners in the penultimate over. Everything that he has tried-yorker, wide yorker, slower ball, knuckle ball or a bouncer, has failed, as he has ended up becoming cannon fodder for batsmen waiting to pounce on his friendly medium pace.
In the Super 4 game of the Asia Cup, Pakistan needed 26 off 2 overs, when the 32-year-old conceded 19 in the 19th over, eventually finishing with 0-40 in 4 overs. In India’s next Super 4 game of the Asia Cup, Sri Lanka needed 21 of 2 overs, when Bhuveshwar went for 14 in the 19th over. This time, the experienced campaigner went for 0-30 in 4 overs. In both games, Arshdeep Singh had the unfair task of defending just 7 in the final over, something which the youngster attempted valiantly.
At Mohali in the first T20I against India on Tuesday night, Australia needed 55 off 4 overs, when Bhuvi was summoned. This time, Mathew Wade had a ‘party’ at his expense, taking 15 off his 17th over, and 16 off his 19th. Bhuvneshwar’s figures made for a sorry reading-4-0-52-0, the first time that he has conceded more than 50 in a T20I.
Naturally, batting legend Sunil Gavaskar pointed out Bhuvneshwar’s poor form as a “area of concern” for Team India. “We didn’t actually bowl as well. It’s a real concern. When somebody like a Bhuvneshwar Kumar is going for so many runs every single time, when he is expected to bowl well, in 18 deliveries in three matches that India have lost against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia, he has given away 49 runs which is almost three runs per ball. ,” Gavaskar told India Today.
“Saying this again use Bhuvi for only one over in last 5 overs,” tweeted former India allrounder-turned commentator Irfan Pathan.
Saying this again use Bhuvi for only one over in last 5 overs.
— Irfan Pathan (@IrfanPathan) 1663694158000
Point taken. However, the worry here is if Bhuvneshwar doesn’t have the pace or tact to survive in the final three overs, then will it be possible for India to use him only in the Powerplay overs?
The problem with India’s current ‘pace’ attack’ which is a part of the 15 for the World Cup is that minus Bumrah, there’s no ‘pace’ in it, unlike Pakistan, where even the replacement fast bowlers are in the 140-plus zone.
“I feel that our current seam bowling attack -particularly Bhuvneshwar, Harshal and Arshdeep will get hammered in the T20 World Cup in Australia and we won’t win any games. I don’t know why guys like Mohammed Shami (he’s part of reserves in India’s World Cup squad), Mohammed Siraj and Umran Malik have been excluded from the World Cup squad. In Australia, you need someone who bowls above140 kmph-something which all these three men can do, while maintaining accuracy and swinging the ball,” former India seamer Karsan Ghavri told TOI.
While his current form may have dipped, there’s no doubting Bhuvneshwar’s fabulous track record in T20Is-in 78 games, he has taken 84 wickets at an average of 22.35, with his economy rate being a superb 6.95.
That is why, Bhuvneshwar still has his backers. “I don’t think anything is wrong with him. Bowling in UAE and India is different to bowling in Australia, where he’ll get good bounce. He’s still a good choice because he’s capable of taking wickets in the initial overs, and that’s what India want. He’s a proven bowler, and he’s got the calibre to bounce back,” felt ex-India pacer Raju Kulkarni.