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Thursday, May 11, 2017

‘I don’t bowl with the intention of taking wickets’: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, IPL 2017’s Purple Cap holder

The 27-year-old spoke about his tremendous form at the IPL this year where he has taken 23 wickets in 12 matches.

Come each year, the Indian Premier League throws in a slew of players’ names to keep track of. These players range from the most established names in the sport to the relative novices, who not only wade through the fervour and flavour of the IPL, but also seek to make the tournament their own.


The IPL also provides an introductory platform of sorts towards the international cricketing arena for those on the threshold. On the other hand, the tournament has also allowed the big names to remain motivated and competitive between assignments. In this year, the focus has been on the Champions Trophy in June.

‘Confidence from IPL will help me do well in the Champions Trophy’
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the Indian bowling spearhead, alluded to the upcoming International Cricket Council tournament, when Scroll caught up with him. “Before going to play in a big tournament [like the ICC Champions Trophy], if you have done well in a tournament before it, you will take positives from that tournament,” said the 27-year-old, as a conversation opener.

The word Kumar used to emphasise his point is “rhythm”, which he believes is not only key for a player to do well, but which is also boosted by the IPL. “In a sport like cricket, be it bowling or batting, rhythm is important for a player. [For me], if I have done well in the IPL, I will try to continue that rhythm in the Champions Trophy, be it with the new ball or be it in the death overs. My confidence [from the IPL] will help me do well in the Champions Trophy.”

It is to this end that Kumar also says players will not find it that difficult to adapt themselves to the 50-over format in the Champions Trophy, swiftly moving on from the T20s. “When you have not had match rhythm, it becomes difficult to adapt [to tournaments]. However, if players have been playing matches regularly, then it doesn’t take them much time to settle. All players will need is a couple of practice sessions and practice matches to give themselves time to get back into the rhythm [of playing ODIs] and adjust,” Kumar commented.

But, the soft-spoken Kumar was particular to note that the extension in the playing formats could hit the bowlers, including him, harder than the batsmen. “In T20s, since it is a six-over powerplay, the batsmen take more risks, which they don’t in ODIs because they know that they have a lot of overs left to play. What will, however, be difficult for the bowlers is that we have been playing T20s for almost two months now, so we have will 30 overs more and our body will feel the pressure.”

Hence, Kumar added, bowlers would benefit immensely from the preparation time they would get before the start of the Champions Trophy, including all the practice sessions and warm-up matches.

The bowler with the golden arm
On a personal front, Kumar has long proved himself to be the pivot on which the teams he represents – Sunrisers Hyderabad and India – hinge. Especially in the IPL this year, Kumar has proven to be instrumental in not just picking wickets alone, but also in cutting off the runs to leave the Sunrisers’ opponents unravelling on any given match day.

Speaking about it, while Kumar acknowledged the hard work that has had gone in to bring about these successes of his, he also categorically pointed out that there wasn’t at all anything new he had sought to develop or modify in his bowling. Likewise, Kumar who is also inching towards winning the Purple Cap for the second year running, was quick to state that he had no aspirations of equalling his 23-wicket haul that he had achieved in 2016, or was even thinking about bettering it, when he began his bowling spree at the 2017 IPL edition.

At the same time, Kumar added that when it came to picking wickets, he always made it a point to reconnect with his cricketing basics. “Taking wickets is something for which you need to work on your basics,” he shared. “Because if my basics are good, the reward [in the form of wickets] will come automatically. I don’t bowl with the intention of taking wickets. The first thing that comes to my mind is to contain [runs]. Because, when you try to contain runs, the batsmen come under pressure and lose their wicket.”

One area, in the course of the IPL, where Kumar has had dual success against the batsmen – both in containment of runs and in picking wickets – has then been in the utilisation of the knuckle ball.

“I got the idea to use the knuckle-ball during the Test series [at home]. When we play matches in India, the wickets are not that supportive for swing. Though, I didn’t use the knuckle-ball much in the Test matches, I was practicing a lot [using them] and it helped me a lot in the IPL,” stated Kumar, even as he downplayed his part in inspiring the other bowlers in the tournament, to effectively employ the bowling tactic.

“A lot of bowlers have used the knuckle-ball in the IPL this year. It’s not easy to play [because] there’s no change in the wrist position. So, the batsman doesn’t know it until late that a knuckle-ball has been bowled. The bowlers, however, find it easy to adapt to the bowling style and, the conditions here help [the bowlers] to use it well too.”

When bowlers matter more than the batsmen
Kumar also shifted this line of reasoning adeptly into a discussion about the entirety of the Indian bowling unit gaining from each individual’s bowler’s strength.

“From medium pacers to spinners, we have different bowlers who each has his own speciality,” said Kumar, adding, “No two bowlers are alike. I depend on swing, as does [Mohammed] Shami. Umesh [Yadav] generates more of reverse [swing] and [Jasprit] Bumrah is a death-over specialist. We have options now and we use a bowler as the situation demands [a bowler to be used].”

It was, then, not surprising to have Kumar back the Indian bowling contignent’s strength at the upcoming tournament in the United Kingdom.

According to Kumar, “Everyone [bowlers], who has been included in the Champions Trophy has done well in the IPL. Shami for the Delhi Daredevils, Bumrah for the Mumbai Indians and [there has been] me for the Sunrisers Hyderabad. So, this is the best thing that we will go to England, we will go with a positive mindset and will take our confidence from the IPL. So, Indian bowlers will definitely have a plus at the Champions Trophy.”
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