Bhuvneshwar Kumar. (TOI Photo)
CHENNAI: The major weapon in pace bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar‘s armoury is his swinging deliveries. The pacer could be bowling at speeds of 133-138 kmph but he could trouble a batsman in any conditions with his immaculate control of the ball.
While the 30-year-old is most adept in bringing the ball back into the right-hander, he could also get the ball to hold its line.
However, with the International Cricket Council (ICC) banning the use of saliva to shine the ball, Bhuvi could find himself in a spot of bother. It might be difficult to swing the ball without the shine and the Meerut fast bowler urged the ICC to come up with some artificial substance to help aid pacers like him who rely on swing a lot.
“A bowler who can clock 145 kmph won’t be affected in any way because he is going to increase the pace of his deliveries. But it does become a challenge for a bowler like me who relies on swing a lot. With no swing, it’s all going to be a batsman’s game,” Bhuvneshwar said in a webinar organised by GainAccess Sports & Entertainment and SportzPower.
The pacer goes on to cite an example. “Let’s say you are playing in England and the conditions are conducive to swing bowling. But the ball gets old after a few overs and you cannot shine the ball. So a bowler like me will only have half of his ability. It will be a tricky condition and hope ICC comes out with some artificial things using which we can shine the ball,” he yearned.
Bhuvi also said that shine is a very important aspect in the game of cricket. “Hopefully, after a couple of months, we will figure out how things stand and if we can find a way to shine the ball. Shining a ball is a really important part of cricket, not just for a swing bowler but for a spinner as well. If you don’t shine the ball, your ability gets reduced to half,” he reiterated.
The ICC though has no problem in players using sweat to shine the ball. But Bhuvi has a poser for cricket’s governing body. “Sweat could be a probable replacement for saliva in warmer conditions. If the ICC doesn’t allow the use of artificial substance, then sweat is the only natural way to shine the ball. However, in colder conditions, there won’t be any sweat so how are you going to shine the ball then. It’s going to be very challenging for the bowlers,” he asserts.
Following a Coronavirus pandemic-enforced hiatus, cricket will be finally back on July 8 with the Test series between England and the West Indies. The match, though, will be played behind closed doors. In fact, there is no certainty when fans could return to the stadium and several players such as England pacer Stuart Broad has asked the team’s psychologist to create a mindset to help the players perform in the absence of crowds.
Bhuvneshwar too acknowledges the importance of supporters in the game of cricket. However, he also feels that a player should get enough motivation when he wears the national team’s jersey.
“The spectators matter a lot for us. In fact, I am sure it is true for every sportsperson in any country. The fans cheer for you and it boosts your confidence level. You get some kind of positive energy from the fans. But you also have to acknowledge the fact that when you are playing for your country, you are always at your 100 per cent. There is no better motivation than playing for your country,” Bhuvi said.
The Indian pacer feels that players should draw from experiences of playing Tests in front of empty stands in the West Indies. “There could be time when there is no one cheering for you. So on such occasions, you might get a bit lethargic on the ground when you are not fielding and are not really active. So in that respect it’s going to be difficult. However, when you go to West Indies, there isn’t much crowd who comes for Test cricket. So those are the kind of situations when you have to boost yourself and motivate yourself. So as a team, we have to say that we have to give our 100 per cent all the time even though there is less crowd,” Bhuvi said.
In the recent past, cricketers have started to open up about mental health issues. While Australia’s all-rounder Glenn Maxwell had opted to take a break from the sport to battle mental fatigue, former India batsman Robin Uthappa too revealed how he dealt with suicidal thoughts.
Bhuvneshwar extended his support for such players who are going through difficult times psychologically.
“When you play cricket for a few years and then suddenly you disappear, it becomes difficult for you to accept it. The cause for it could be anything… your time is up or you are not as good as you used to be or there is someone who is better than you and took your place. Even you could be going through personal stress and it might affect your game. So it is very important that you address these things with professional help,” Bhuvi said.
The 30-year-old feels that it is important to be compassionate towards each other during such trying times. “I was out of the Indian team for four months due to injuries. Now, we play so much cricket that you could miss out on four series in the space of those four months. Someone new could come and take your place in the side by performing well in those four series. So a spate of injuries could really frustrate you. For example, if I am out of the team, I need to find the reason and accept why I am out of the team. Is it because I am not doing well or is it because someone is doing better than me,” Bhuvi said.
The fast bowler also prescribes the NCA tonic in order to overcome mental stress. “As individuals, what we could do is practise some mental exercises which is still done at NCA for age-group cricket. They teach you the mental aspect of the game, how you go through bad times and how you come out of it. You need to go to your coaches and seniors and learn how they came back from those setbacks. It is disheartening to see well-known cricketers going through tough times. It’s sad to see,” he said.
Bhuvneshwar is only 30 and still has lot of cricket left in him. In fact, having recovered from a sports hernia injury (for which he also had to undergo a surgery), the India pacer is raring to go.
However, one can only be considered as prescient if he plans for the future. And Bhuvneshwar says that he got plenty of time during the Coronavirus pandemic-enforced lockdown to chalk out a future roadmap. The pacer says that he plans to open an academy in his hometown Meerut because the city has given him a lot. “I want to open an academy in Meerut because it has given me so much. I just want to give it back to the people over there. That is something I am going to do for sure,” Bhuvi said.
This is also an age of biopics and considering Bhuvneshwar’s achievements in cricket, a well-crafted movie on the sportsperson’s life can be scripted. Asked which actor could play his role in his biopic, Bhuvi said: “Once somebody suggested that Rajkummar Rao has a lot of similarities with me in terms of physical appearance. So he could play my role in my biopic.”
While the fast bowler always seemed to have a very calm and composed attitude towards the game, he said that he has become more mature over the years. “When you are young, you just cannot think anything beyond cricket. But as you grow older, you get to learn that cricket is just a part of your journey,” he said.