The accolades for India’s newfound strength in the pace department have been rolling in throughout the year with their performances in the tours of South Africa, England and now Australia.
The fast-bowling armoury has been hailed by many as the best-ever produced by India and it is hard to argue otherwise.
Having more than matched their counterparts in South Africa and England and having comfortably outbowled Australia’s fearsome pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood in their own backyard, India’s quicks are fully deserving of all plaudits that have come their way.
However, while Indian cricket fans were going gaga over Bumrah, Ishant and Shami’s exploits, one man has slipped quietly under the radar. It was the man who kickstarted India’s 2018 in explosive fashion by blowing away South Africa’s top-order at Newlands in the first Test.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar removed Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla and Aiden Markram in the space of just three overs to give India a stunning start to their overseas sojourns of 2018.
India would eventually fall to a 72-run defeat with Bhuvneshwar dropped for the second Test at Centurion. The 28-year-old was drafted back into the playing XI for the final Test at Wanderers, picking up four wickets across the two innings as India secured a famous win.
While a sense of disappointment was only natural for Bhuvneshwar after his baffling omission at Centurion, there was still plenty to play for with a tour of England to follow. With conditions in England traditionally favouring seamers of the ilk of Bhuvneshwar, the Meerut-born bowler was expected to make a giant killing in the five-Test series.
However, little did Bhuvneshwar know that the Wanderers Test would be his last appearance in India whites for 2018. Disaster would strike in the limited-overs leg of the England tour with the seamer being rushed back from a back injury for the deciding ODI at Lord’s.
India went on to lose the ODI series as well as Bhuvneshwar for the remainder of the tour after the pacer aggravated his injury. Robbed of a chance to perform on pitches where his seam bowling would have probably fetched maximum reward, the India man had to fly back home to undergo an extensive period of rehabilitation.
He came back strongly from that disappointment to play a starring role in India’s Asia Cup triumph and was looking in fine form ahead of the Australian tour.
But Australia was always going to be the least favoured surface of Bhuvneshwar among India’s overseas destinations of 2018 with his lack of pace and bounce. Hence, it was not surprising that Bumrah, Ishant and Shami were preferred ahead of him.
When India did opt to field a four-man pace attack at Perth, it was Umesh Yadav who got the nod instead of Bhuvneshwar. In all probability, Bhuvneshwar will sit out the Sydney Test as well with the ground traditionally assisting the spinners.
As such, a 2018 which promised so much at the start for Bhuvneshwar has gone sour completely with just two Test appearance to show for the seamer. He has found himself fall way behind in the pecking order of the pacer battery with Bumrah’s meteoric rise.
A seamer of Bhuvneshwar’s talent would be an automatic pick for most Test outfits in the world but he now risks becoming the forgotten man of India’s bowling attack. Will 2019 bring a change in fortunes for the unlucky bowler? For his sake, Bhuvneshwar will hope so.
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