Bhuvaneshwar Kumars ODI career might still be in its nascent stage. But in the 10 months since he donned India colours for the first time,the Uttar Pradesh seamer has built up a dependable reputation. Throw him the new ball and you were guaranteed a wicket or two. Bhuvneshwar rarely let Mahendra Singh Dhoni down and in fact was an integral contributor to Indias golden run in ODI cricket in 2013 a success rate of nearly 70 per cent providing the early impetus.
More than 70 per cent of the 23-year-olds 26 ODI wickets have come with the new ball,with 13 of them either openers or No. 3 batsmen. The ODI series against Australia so far,though,has been a sort of reality check for him. Bhuvneshwars economy rate has taken a serious beating,and his innate wicket-taking knack hasnt really surfaced-through this series,hes taken one wicket at the average of 145,and that wicket was Brad Haddin holing out off a short ball towards the end of Australias chase at Mohali.
And while Indias death bowling has come in for severe criticism,their do-or-die predicament going into the sixth ODI at Nagpur also has something to do with Bhuvneshwars inability to strike in the early going.
The only time Australias in-form opening duo were separated before they had taken the team score to 150 was in Ranchi,where Mohammad Shami sent them packing with pace and swing,having replaced Bhuvneshwar in the eleven. The pitch in Dhoni-land,however,had an encouraging tinge of green and the overhead conditions were also in favour of swing bowling,which Shami used to devastating effect.
To be fair to Bhuvneshwar,he would have felt gutted to miss out on an opportunity to show his wares in conditions that were to his liking. Especially when he had flat,unresponsive featherbeds to contend with in the first three matches of the series. And it looks unlikely that either he or Shami will find much to smile about when they get a look at the pitch at Jamtha,the venue of the sixth ODI.
But with the countdown to the 2015 World Cup having already commenced,every ODI from here on will be looked at as a rehearsal for the mega event Down Under. A chance to experiment,fill gaps and find the right combinations for various departments. Unlike in India,the pitches for a majority of the ODIs that India will play over the next 12 months should have a bit in them for the pacers-considering they will be in South Africa,New Zealand,England and Australia. And in Bhuvneshwar and Shami,India might just have the right combination with new balls from each end,probably even in Australia when Dhoni & Co look to defend their crown.
Similar yet different
Both swing the ball,Shami at pace he touched the 140s at Ranchi and Bhuvneshwar at a more deceptive speed. Shami uses his shoulder and hits the wicket with velocity,while Bhuvneshwar skids the ball off the surface. Bhuvneshwars major strength,along with his movement,is his ability to nag away at a steady line and length. Shami may be slightly more enigmatic in his approach but as he proved last week,he can bring the ball in as sharply as he can swerve it away. And hes generally more accurate than most other Indian bowlers who generate pace. Not to forget his ability to slip in the yorker,a facet of his game that he displayed even during his debut against Pakistan in Delhi at the turn of the year.
Fast bowling has Dhonis biggest concern against Australia so far. With Ishant Sharma and Vinay Kumar struggling to take wickets and keep the runs down,the vacancies are there alright. In the coming months,the likes of Jaydev Unadkat and Mohit Sharma might also join the race but for now it seems that Shami and Bhuvneshwar could share Indias new-ball duties come the World Cup. But as far as solutions for death bowling are concerned,there dont seem to be many in sight.