India vs England: Comeback-man Bhuvneshwar Kumar ticks all the boxes

CHENNAI: One of India’s biggest success stories in the T20 series and the first ODI against England has been paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar. His thigh muscle injury that ruled him out of competitive cricket after the first week of last year’s IPL in October seems a thing of the past. The 31-year-old has taken six wickets since his international return, but what has been more impressive is the control he has had over England.
Both in the T20s and the ODI, captain Virat Kohli has been able to fall back on him in powerplay, middle-overs and slog overs and the paceman has delivered. His superb seam position has made all the difference and the rhythm that he has been in is outstanding.

L Balaji, former India pacer and the CSK bowling coach, compared Bhuvi’s comeback to the legendary Glen McGrath’s return in 2004 following a string of injuries. “I remember McGrath missing most of 2003 with injuries. But then he was outstanding when he came to India in 2004…The way Bhuvi is making the ball zip off the pitch after hitting the seam is reminding me of McGrath during that series,” Balaji, who himself had his share of injuries, told TOI.

Bhuvi was struggling with a few injuries in the last couple of years and wasn’t probably at his peak when the Covid-induced lockdown happened in March 2020. And then the pacer suffered the muscle injury during IPL and things looked really steep for the Uttar Pradesh man. New bowlers were coming in and producing the results and it was imperative for Bhuvi to get his rhythm back immediately on return.

Balaji feels the lengthy break may just have been a blessing in disguise for the medium-pacer. “He has clearly worked on his wrist position, it’s so upright during the England series. Bhuvi must have used the Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy playing for his state to get the rhythm and confidence back and that’s showing in this series,” Balaji added.
While the English top-order has struggled to get after him in the first few overs, his bowling in the second and third spells have been a revelation too. The ball that got a dangerous looking Moeen Ali out on Tuesday in Pune was an absolute beauty, more so because it was with a semi-old white ball which didn’t have a pronounced seam and was not reversing either. “It was all about his wrist position and the fizz that he got off the pitch,” Balaji explained.
Bhuvneshwar has been a good death bowler using the angles well along with subtle changes of pace and the occasional yorker. “That’s his comfort zone, something he has done very well in T20 cricket over the years. He is an intelligent bowler and I am not surprised at all he is doing it so well,” Balaji, who had similar strengths during his playing days, added.
For now, Bhuvi’s challenge is to stay fit through the grind of the IPL and be at his best when the World T20 comes around in October.

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