Bhuvneshwar Kumar is that type of cricketer you’ll never find hogging the limelight or the tabloids.

Especially now in this Indian cricket team where everyone sports a mean beard and does an occasional dab, Bhuvi is often the odd one out. He’s not prone to the huge shows of aggression or showmanship which his teammates enjoy. But he’s no debonair dasher, you’d probably describe him as the honest straggler who does his bit quietly without complaint.

So when he was forced into the limelight with India struggling at 131/7 chasing 231 in the second One-Day International against Sri Lanka at Pallekele on Thursday, you wondered how he’d react.

For a person who, forget with the bat, even with the ball doesn’t like too many pyrotechnics, he stepped into an absolute mosh pit. The lead guitarist Akila Dananjaya was bringing back old memories – of a time when Sri Lanka had wizards and shadow artists called Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis. Freaks of nature who made deliveries turn mysteriously and slide unevenly. Shadowy figures who you never managed to understand, but could recoil at the receiving end of their blows.

Calm amidst chaos

And all of a sudden, beaten, laughed-at Sri Lanka had found another one of those beings who had cleaned up the best Indian batsmen with a wondering array of wrong-‘uns. All the dashers, all of them who liked living up to descriptions like “casual elegance” and “easy on the eye” had completely and utterly been deceived.

After the smoke cleared, the only ones left only were Captain (yes, always) Cool MS Dhoni and the good, hard-working Bhuvi.

He played the first ball he faced from Dananjaya – the googly which had eliminated so many better batsmen above him – with consummate ease, picking it properly, going back and defending it. The “mystery” spinner came at him again next over, bowled five balls at him which he read easily, leaving two and blocking out three.

To use a cliche, Bhuvneshwar Kumar snatched victory out of Sri Lanka's jaws. (Image credit: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

Chaos? Mystery? Wrong-‘uns? Suddenly, life was orderly and systematic again.

Of course, it helps when you have the master of calm at the other end. But it also helps a great deal when you have a calm head yourself and can think through the situation. When you don’t succumb for a big shot just because you’ve played out a few dots.

At one point, the 27-year-old from Meerut played out 22 dot balls in a row in his partnership with Dhoni. Of course, India had the luxury of a strong start and Bhuvneshwar had Dhoni to fall back on at the other end. And yet, you have to think for a moment really if anyone else in the team would have done something similar. Think about it. Hardik Pandya? KL Rahul? Kedar Jadhav? Everyone tried to play a shot and was dismissed. Kumar, on the other hand, soaked up pressure…without getting affected even once.

Bhuvi the Finisher

And once he was done, once he had needled Sri Lanka enough and seen that the stroke of luck was going India’s way, he decided to attack. Suddenly, in a situation where even singles seemed gold dust, Bhuvneshwar slog-sweeped Malinda Siriwardana for a six. Finally and decisively, when the magician of the evening who had brought the Lankans into the match came in for one final spell, Kumar fittingly demonstrated to Dananjaya that his enchantment was not going to work over him. No, this was going to be the night where method and workmanship would prevail. He smashed him for two fours to turn the result India’s way.

MS Dhoni wasn’t even needed to finish it. Bhuvneshwar hit a few more boundaries to help himself to a fifty which he probably didn’t even himself expect at the start of the series. It was an innings of calmness, confidence, steadiness – in fact, it had all the hallmarks of an MS Dhoni classic.

But it didn’t come from MS Dhoni who played the sidekick’s role, after a point. Thursday’s night’s hero was the understated Bhuvneshwar Kumar.