Few bowlers would approach the Twenty20 format with any kind of confidence – the conditions are loaded heavily in the favour of the batsmen and the bowlers will almost always go for runs. It can be dispiriting; it can be disheartening but it also toughens up bowlers in many ways.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar spent quite a bit of time outside the Indian setup for reasons that many considered valid. He was a one-dimensional bowlers - great with the new ball and in conditions that aid swing and seam but pretty ordinary otherwise. Some players might have decided that that was their limit but the bowler from Uttar Pradesh decided to break through the limits instead.
If he was one-dimensional then he needed to find a way to become a greater bowler. His method for that was simple. For six months, he spent hours at the nets... testing out variations, theories, tricks until he finally found a weapon he could use.
In Cape Town, the medium pacer came up with yet another brilliant bowling performance (4 overs, 24-2) to guide India to a series over South Africa. The first wicket was set up by the knuckleball but the delivery before that was just as important.
It was a short ball and it made the batsman wary. Then, just when Reeza Hendricks thought that Bhuvneshwar had bowled a regular delivery, he slipped in the knuckleball. It is the timing of his knuckleball that has made him deadly in the format.
The Indian Premier League has ensured that he has had enough opportunities to get better at this.
“T20 is a format that finishes quickly and you have only four overs. If there are three bad balls in one over, you will go for runs and your whole analysis will suffer. The team gets on the back foot because of those three balls,” said Bhuvneshwar after the game.
“So each and every ball becomes very important, it makes the bowler a thinking bowler. You have to execute the plan properly. Bumrah plays for a different team but yes, whatever he does for his team gives confidence to each and every one,” he added.
The confidence earned in the ODIs had flowed into the Tests too for Bhuvneshwar. He is now batting well as well but understanding the different requirements of the formats is important too.
“In Test matches, there is not much variation. It’s about line and length. When you come to one-day cricket you look for yorkers and slower ones. It is never easy to switch between formats but it is all about practice and preparation. You need 2-3 overs to adjust. However, when it comes to T20, you have to be proactive and you cannot react after what the batsman does.”
“T20 cricket is all about using variations and the timing has to be perfect. I have tried the knuckleball to good effect and tried to tempt the batsmen on that. That’s one of the main reasons why I have been successful in powerplays,” he added.
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