Were you left stunned by the way Bhuvaneshwar Kumar was making the ball talk in Bangalore the other day? Those three wickets — Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal — must have prompted you to do a Google. To which place this boy belongs and where was he until now?
The questions may not have ended there, considering India’s limited pace stocks. You want to ask if he can replace a struggling Zaheer Khan.
Kumar’s claim to fame was the 2009 Ranji Trophy final between Uttar Pradesh and Mumbai. He dismissed Sachin Tendulkar with a vicious in-dipper. It was the master’s only duck in first-class cricket, a rare blot one must say.
His childhood coach Vipin Vats wasn’t surprised by his dream debut spell against Pakistan (he had figures of 3/9). In fact, he believes Kumar is made for Tests. “You saw what he can do with the new ball. Given that the quality of cricket balls have improved, he should swing them the whole day. He has the ability to mix-up deliveries,” Vats said.
He recalled a 13-year-old Bhuvaneshwar who was brought to his Meerut academy by his sister Rekha. “He was wearing jeans and a hawai chappal (slippers). I gave him a bowl. He impressed instantly. The smooth action was striking. He joined my academy the next day,” said Vats, who played Ranji as a wicketkeeper for Uttar Pradesh and has also trained the likes of Praveen Kumar and Sudeep Tyagi.
“He was always a hardworking fellow who spoke little. But when it came to cricket he spoke without inhibitions. His parents weren’t enthused about him taking to the sport, but Bhuvaneshwar had already made up his mind. Once he made it to the U-15 UP side, I told his father that I would take him under my wings,” added Vats.
Till this day, Bhuvaneshwar hasn’t made him regret the decision. “I guess only once when he was ill, he missed practice for a few days. Otherwise, he would come for fitness in the morning and play a match in the afternoon,” Vats said.
Tyagi, Kumar’s batch-mate from Meerut days, said he always had the talent. “He was a good learner too. We would talk a lot about cricket when we were room-mates during Ranji games. Even during our academy days, he was always hungry to do well whenever he had the opportunity,” he said.
“He is more of a PK (Praveen Kumar) type of bowler,” said Mohammad Kaif. “He has the swing, bowls seam upright and is good with the bat too.”
It’s not often that an Indian pacer makes an impression instantly. There’s something about the boy that should make us follow him closely.