There is something calm about Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He may not come across as a typical aggressive fast bowler. His build is not like that. But give him the cricket ball and he knows the knack of getting wickets on pitches where there is even the slightest of help for seam bowlers.
The struggling England batsmen discovered how dangerous he can be. Not just with the ball that fetched him 11 wickets in the first two Tests including a five-wicket haul in each of them but also with the bat, scoring match-saving half-centuries at No. 9.
It may be an exaggeration to speak of Kumar, only 24 and in his second year in international cricket, in the same length as legendary all-rounders Richard Hadlee of New Zealand and England's Ian Botham. But his feats in the first two Tests – also his first outside India – put him on par with the two greats of yesteryear for having three half-centuries and two five-wicket bags in successive Tests.
It is also too early to classify Kumar as an all-rounder and put him under pressure. Youngsters have suffered when comparisons were made prematurely with the great Kapil Dev and labelling them as the ones best suited to fill in the shoes left vacant in 1994 by the 1983 World Cup winning captain. Players to suffer such fate included Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, to name just a few.
Any medium-pacer who can show some batting skills is labelled an all-rounder fit enough to fill Kapil's vacancy. While India's search for that genuine all-rounder still continues, it will be wise to give Kumar more time before bracketing him in that category. Former India all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar said to dna that the Uttar Pradesh cricketer "can be very useful in the coming years".
"The way Bhuvneshwar bowls, he knows his limitations. The way he bats, he knows his confidence levels. He is technically sound. Altogether, he comes as a package, something the Indian team has been looking for a long long time," Prabhakar said.
The 51-year-old Prabhakar, who played 39 Tests and 130 ODIs, said that Kumar "complements his bowling with his batting skills and takes all the support from batting to his bowling. And, to be doing it outside India, his efforts have to be appreciated."
However, Prabhakar threw caution. "It he bats at No. 6 and doesn't perform with the bat, will that affect his bowling? That is when pressure starts. But he is capable enough to take pressure while batting because he is bowling well. But when he doesn't bowl or bat well, that's when pressure creeps in," said Prabhakar.
Though Kumar has bowled in three England innings on tour, his 11 wickets came in two of them – 5/82 in Trent Bridge when England batted only once and 6/82 in the first innings at Lord's. The Uttar Pradesh youngster went wicketless (0/21 in 16 overs) in the second innings when Ishant Sharma breathed fire on Monday afternoon to return with 7/74 and bowl India to a famous win.
Prabhakar observed: "When the ball is not seaming, only swinging, Bhuvneshwar will have problems. It he doesn't get help from the wicket, that is when he is really tested. And that's what we saw in the second innings at Lord's."
Prabhakar, who has excelled in England and Australian conditions because he was a yard quicker than Kumar, felt that the youngster will be tested Down Under when India tour later this year. "The Kookaburra ball (in Australia) does not move after 20 or 30 overs. He can be very good there with the new ball and also by adding pace. Like how I did. I knew how to bowl in Australia. I had the pace," said Prabhakar.
Kumar, however, has had early lessons in Australia, where he had a training stint in 2009 when he won the Border-Gavaskar Scholarship from National Cricket Academy.
Prabhakar was mightily impressed with Kumar on the whole. "If a person knows his limits and bowls within them, he will go far. Bhuvneshwar is nto fiddling with his seam bowling. He is not changing his action. If he can be a little quicker, he will do wonders," said the retired cricketer-turned coach.