During Indias tour of Australia in 1999-2000,coach Kapil Dev asked his fast bowlers to wear a t-shirt at the nets which said Pitch it up. Kapils message to Javagal Srinath and Co. was something he himself had practiced with good success in countries with pace friendly conditions. Kapils instructions were largely ignored on that tour (which India lost 3-0) and continued to receive only lukewarm following.
India have lacked a bowler who has the ability to swing the ball generously,coupled with control and decent pace. Lately Praveen Kumar showed some promise,swinging the ball from a fuller length and enjoying some success against the English batsmen during Indias tour in 2011. However,the lack of pace and subsequent injuries have meant his career has withered since then.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar,though,fits the bill perfectly. The medium pacer has been one of the reasons behind Indias success at the ongoing Champions Trophy,with his ability to dismiss top-order batsmen.
His use of the crease,full length,ability to move the ball both ways and control mean the batsmen go at the ball more often than they have to. In the tournament,the Uttar Pradesh bowler has claimed Colin Ingram,Chris Gayle,Nasir Jamshed,Mohammad Hafeez and Kusal Perera,all caught behind the wicket. Four of the five,interestingly,were left handers,traditionally an area of weakness for Indian bowlers. His mode of operation is different from that of Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav,also adding to the variety in the current attack. The new ODI rules that allow for a new ball from either end has also been a blessing for Bhuvneshwar Kumar,meaning he can bowl longer spells when the conditions suit him best.
Kumars flourish in English conditions bodes well for India considering that their next two big assignments are South Africa and New Zealand. Not to mention the World Cup in Australia in early 2015.
(Siddhartha is a senior correspondent based in New Delhi.)