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Bhuvneshwar Kumar: India's new swing king

In just two years, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has become India's bowling spearhead

Published: Feb 19, 2015 05:50:30 AM IST
Updated: Feb 19, 2015 08:40:07 AM IST
Bhuvneshwar Kumar: India's new swing king
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Bhuvneshwar Kumar | 24
Category: Sports

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.”

Bhuvneshwar Kumar: India's new swing king
Things are certainly looking up for him. In December 2014, he was among the chosen five to be awarded the BCCI’s Grade A central contract. “Frankly speaking, I do not have any specific ambition. Winning the World Cup is the ultimate aim for any cricketer, but so is becoming a top Test cricketer. I just want to play for India as long as I can,” he says.

Perhaps that is the reason he also puts in a lot of effort to improve his batting. During the fourth Test against Australia in Sydney in January 2015, he provided staunch resistance with the bat, scoring 30 and 20 not out to help save the match. “I’ve always taken my batting very seriously,” says Kumar, who averages 26 in Tests, the same as batsman Suresh Raina. He’s certainly making a strong case for himself as a genuine all-rounder. Kapil Dev would be proud.

Here is the full list of 30 Under 30 for 2015 and its methodology

(This story appears in the 20 February, 2015 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Observer

    Bhuvi is not the spear head...Shami is...at the wc he is even struggling to find a place in the team !

    on Mar 10, 2015