Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah have become India’s go-to men in limited-overs cricket, with Virat Kohli trusting the pacers in the key overs at the start and at the death, and both have delivered more often than not.
While Bhuvneshwar relies on movement and tight lines, Bumrah’s strengths are his ability to bowl it in the blockhole and vary his pace. Even in India’s defeat in the second Twenty20 International against New Zealand in Rajkot, Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah were the only bowlers to emerge with credit while New Zealand racked up 196 for 2.
With the series tied at 1-1, the teams will lock horns at Thiruvananthapuram for the deciding T20I on Tuesday (November 7).
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Bhuvneshwar said he enjoyed bowling with Bumrah, and the two worked well in sync. “The kind of action that Bumrah has, more often than not it becomes difficult for the batsman to pick him,” said Bhuvneshwar. “He has always had the yorker in his armoury, now he has added the slower ball as well. Bowling with him, you are confident that if the team needs to save runs he will at most times do well. Or on days when you are not bowling well, you can rely on him to back you up. At the start of the match, we usually sit down and devise a strategy to set our fields and plan accordingly.”
In Rajkot, the other bowlers came in for a fair bit of stick, especially from Colin Munro, who hit 109 not out off 58 balls, but Bhuvneshwar held that India’s bowling combination didn’t need too much tinkering despite the reverse.
“Talking about the fifth bowler, there is Hardik (Pandya), there are other part-timers as well, but we haven’t felt that we have missed (a fifth bowler). But, in cricket, it sometimes happens that your main bowlers are unable to take a wicket or are carted away for runs, then yes a fifth bowler sometimes becomes important, but everyone in the team is happy with the combination,” he said.
“About the combination of the team, I think the captain and the coach will be able to tell you better. When I pick up a ball I never put myself under any pressure thinking about the fifth bowler or anything as such. Whatever the team combination we have to abide, so that is something we really don’t think about.”
India are going into the final T20I with questions swirling over the form of MS Dhoni, the former captain, who hasn’t been able to kick on at the pace required in the game’s shortest format. The pacer though, dismissed any talk of the team being worried about Dhoni’s ability. “Nobody is worried, whatsoever,” emphasised Bhuvneshwar. “If you check his records, what he has done for the team is remarkable. He knows he is a legend, whatever he has done for team India is for the benefit of the team, and no one has any doubt about it.”
Bhuvneshwar also revealed that he had begun to take his batting more seriously, especially after playing a match-winning hand of 53 not out in the second ODI against Sri Lanka during India’s tour of the country in July-August.
“Batting is something I have always been confident about, especially in Test cricket,” he explained. “The one-day format is such that you need one such innings to boost you up. The Sri Lanka series, where I scored a half-century, in some way gave me the confidence that I can succeed at the ODI level as well. Post that whenever I bat in the nets, I always keep in mind the match scenario and in what circumstances I might be required to bat. Sanjay Bangar (the batting coach), really helped me in that regard, to create those match situations, and that has helped me improve a lot.”
Bhuvneshwar also gave credit to New Zealand, and said that the visiting side were a very good team, while singling out Munro as one of the most dangerous batsmen. “If I have to name one, that will have to be Colin Munro only,” he said when asked which batsman in the opposition posed the greatest threat. “But, then they have a lot of good players, Kane Williamson is there, so you can’t really pinpoint just one batsman. We can’t really say that only Colin Munro is dangerous. Yes he is the one who is scoring runs, but overall they are a very good team.”
This will be the first game at the Greenfield International Stadium in the city, and while Bhuvneshwar acknowledged that conditions would be new, he still felt India would enjoy the home advantage.
“Yes, it is a first game here, can’t be sure how the conditions are going to be, but it is a benefit for us that we are playing in India so whatever the conditions are going to be we know it won’t be too different,” he reasoned. “It will be a challenge, but somehow we have to tackle it. Today is our day off so we are not going for practice, but of course, before the match, we will have our warmups, and then everybody will have a look at the wicket and will plan their strategies accordingly.”