It was a kind of headline that catches Indian eyes. First there was a mention of the word Tendulkar. ‘Teenage prodigy knocks over Tendulkar for a duck’. There was a whisper of a 19-year-old, who had worked out Sachin Tendulkar in the domestic circuit and bowled him out for his first ever duck in domestic first-class cricket.Bhuvneshwar Kumar, born in Meerut, the manufacturing home of the SG ball, shot into the limelight when he debuted on Christmas Day in 2012, making the white Kookaburra zip all around the Pakistani bats at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. A demonstration of nagging swing bowling in the shortest format of the game in batting-friendly conditions was a fine way to make the world sit up and take notice of this precocious talent.Having made the usually unresponsive white Kookaburra talk in a high-pressure game against Pakistan, and with a dearth of quality fast-bowling in the country, Bhuvneshwar was given the nod by the selectors for the Chennai Test against Australia in 2013. Bhuvneshwar was selected in the ODI squad for the Champions Trophy in 2013. He was later selected for the tri-nation tournament where he claimed career best figures of 4-8 against Sri Lanka. He was awarded the Man of the Series, having finished the series with the maximum number of wickets.He continued to be a regular member of the side for the limited-overs format and toured South Africa and New Zealand without much success as he started to lose his craft in his quest to find pace. He did well in the Test series in England in 2014, finishing the series as the highest wicket-taker, and getting his name up in the Lord’s honors board, as the raised seam of the Dukes helped him achieved prodigious movement in the air against the famed English batting line-up. He also made relatively exceptional contributions with the bat, registering three fifties in the series. After the conclusion of the home series against West Indies in 2014, the selectors rested him for the Sri Lanka series. He returned to the national side for India’s tour of Australia but did not feature in the first three Test matches due to an ankle injury.Bhuvi was expected to perform well in the 2015 World Cup. However, his poor fitness did not allow him to be part of the playing eleven. He played only one game against UAE. His 2016 season was restricted to just four Tests. Bhuvneshwar left a mark – taking two five-wicket hauls, one each against West Indies and New Zealand.His career, however, took a turn for the better once he worked on his fitness and started to swing the white Kookaburra at pace and by the Champions’ Trophy of 2017, he and Jasprit Bumrah were leading the Indian ODI pace attack with a new weapon in his armoury – the yorker. He had started to bowl well with the old ball, getting his yorkers right, and was no longer the new-ball specialist who would get bowled out in the first 20 overs. Having picked up the pace as well, he started to reverse-swing the ball as well and became a headache for batsmen the world over.In the Test fold, despite being picked for more helpful conditions, he continued to be an injury-replacement or an experimentation choice for the captain. However, after developing a scrambled seam delivery in the home series against Australia, and getting the ball to jag off the seam as well as move in the air, he had expanded his repertoire enough to become an indispensable asset to the Indian Test team. Having tormented the visiting Sri Lankan side, and even having South Africa’s famed top-order at sea in their own backyard, the sky is the limit for Bhuvneshwar. Unfortunately, he got injured at a crucial juncture before the tour of England in mid-2018, and got sidelined; a major setback for an Indian side which was relying on his skilful and reliable swing bowling along with his newly-developed scrambled-seam variation which might have tuned out to be pivotal given the English conditions. Nevertheless, with age on his side, and with a perfect blend of brain and brawn, the best is yet to come from this twinkle-eyed wizard from Meerut.
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