The 2008-2009 season of the Ranji Trophy was quite famous for a dismissal – that of Sachin Tendulkar.
The legendary batsman, for the first time in his domestic career, was dismissed without scoring. The bowler was an 18-year-old Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Bhuvneshwar had Tendulkar caught at a slightly deep bat-pad position with an inswinging delivery that shot the Meerut-born bowler into the limelight.
“When he came to bat, from the dressing room to the ground, I was at the bowling mark. I was watching him, and I couldn’t keep my eyes away from him,” recalls Bhuvneshwar on the latest episode of Spicy Pitch.
“Now, if I rewind my life, whatever started in my life was after that. It was an achievement to get him out, and I came into people’s notice. They were asking, ‘who is he, what did he do?’ So whatever I had performed before that, all that came into the limelight suddenly.”
Bhuvneshwar made his ODI and T20I debut in December 2012 and Test debut a couple of months later. By that time, he was renowned for his ability to swing the ball prodigiously and trouble the batsmen – something that many believed would serve India well on their tour of England.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar too trusted in his skills. He finished as India’s highest wicket-taker in the series, finishing with 19 wickets, and also bagging a couple of fifers in the process. But it was also a series that made Bhuvneshwar realise the importance of strength and fitness, with the bowler admitting that he ran out of fuel midway in a five-Test series that India were playing for the first time in 12 years.
“Everyone knows that in India we don’t have the best conditions for fast bowlers. So everyone was hopeful that in England especially, the ball swings. It was my first series, and everyone had high hopes. Even me. When you play in England where it swings…I thought ‘I’ll do this, I’ll do that’.
“And, that happened too (but I also) learnt a lot of things. Because it was a five-match series, how to manage it, how to navigate the fatigue (was important). After three matches I was out of fuel. I had never played such a big series before.”
Injury issues soon followed and Bhuvneshwar also lost his bowling rhythm. As swing bowler without much pace, he was sorted out by the batsmen. And when went in pursuit of speed, more injuries followed. But those testing times also brought to the fore the tenacity and hunger of Bhuvneshwar who overcame his hardships to come back a meaner force.
“If you have a limited pace and swing, batsmen begin to adjust to it. Then, I started giving out runs, after which the time to change something had come. I felt I needed to increase my pace. It also happened that I got injured and it took time to come back from it. My bowling didn’t have that rhythm, things weren’t going too well.
“But then, I started training, and tried to change it around. That training helped me. Unknowingly, my pace increased. But I struggled for 1-2 series, because with that pace, I wasn’t used to bowling with it. So, the ball wouldn’t swing. When I wasn’t used to it, the body took too much load. There were a few injuries and niggles. But when I got my off time things began to work out slowly.
“Absolutely, there was (fear),” admitted Bhuvneshwar. “Generally, you believe in yourself. But when you start listening to what people are saying, you can try to ignore it but it will eventually reach your ears. That ‘he’s lost his swing, now he’s going towards pace’. But you (also) know inside, what you are getting out of. Fortunately, I was able to emerge from that.”