Bhuvneshwar Kumar | 24
A little over two years ago, when archrivals India and Pakistan played a closely-fought T20 international in Bangalore, a lanky youngster from Meerut quietly announced his arrival on the international stage. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, then 22, opened the attack for India and finished with impressive figures of 3-9 in four overs. But what the statistics don’t convey is the prodigious swing he generated with the new ball. For a country starved of good swing bowlers since Kapil Dev’s retirement, Kumar offered hope.
Following an excellent season with bat and ball (19 wickets, second only to James Anderson, and 247 runs, more than Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, during India’s tour of England last summer), he was conferred with the BCCI’s Polly Umrigar Award in November for being the country’s best international cricketer in 2013-14. That month, he also bagged the LG ICC People’s Choice Award, pipping the likes of Dale Steyn and Mitchell Johnson. He earned a place in the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy’s team of the tournament too. In just two years, Kumar has become India’s bowling spearhead.
“I haven’t seen a bowler like Bhuvneshwar in a long time. What stands out even more is that he swung the ball both ways,” Kapil Dev had told The Telegraph after Kumar’s T20 debut. Kumar says it is something that has come to him naturally. “I first realised I could swing the ball when I was playing at the under-15 level for Uttar Pradesh. I got the ball to swing into the batsman. I’ve never changed my wrist position,” he tells Forbes India in a telephonic conversation from Australia.
Though consistent domestic performances have won him recognition, it was the Indian Premier League (IPL) that brought Kumar the accolades. After Sunrisers Hyderabad bought him for Rs 4.25 crore in the 2014 season, he responded with 20 wickets in 14 matches. He was the third-highest wicket-taker, showing exceptional skills in the death overs.
What works for the 24-year-old is that he is aware of his limitations. “I’m not as quick as the other guys; I never bowl at 140 kmph,” says Kumar, “But when you don’t bowl that quick, there are more chances of being consistent.”
Check out our Festive offers upto Rs.1000/- off website prices on subscriptions + Gift card worth Rs 500/- from Eatbetterco.com. Click here to know more.
(This story appears in the 20 February, 2015 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)