Defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad slumped to their second consecutive defeat of the season as they failed to chase KKR’s target of 173 runs. This loss again raises serious questions about Hyderabad’s middle order but at the same time, Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s staggering consistency with the ball was the lone positive for the team.
Against Kolkata, Hyderabad conceded 172 runs in 20 overs at 8.6 runs per over. But in the same innings, Kumar had figures of 4-0-20-3 with an unbelievable economy rate of only five runs per over. In the match where most things went against the defending champions, this bowling performance was the only bright point.
Over the year, ‘Bhuvi’, as he is fondly called, has seldom been in the headlines, but has quietly gone about his job. Last year, when Mustafizur Rahman and David Warner stole the limelight for Hyderabad, Kumar chipped in with wickets and was also the Purple Cap holder.
Extra Cover: IPL 2017: Purple Cap holders through the seasons
Kumar has entered this season as the ace bowling weapon for Hyderabad. Although the team boasts quality bowlers in the form of Ashish Nehra, Mustafizur, and Rashid Khan, the bowling department is still spearheaded by this young Indian medium pacer.
Along with swinging the ball in the initial overs, the Indian pacer’s job is also to limit the damage in the death overs with his yorkers and slower deliveries. And so far, he has been spot on in this season.
In four matches in this IPL, Kumar has picked up 10 wickets and has topped the leading wicket takers charts. But what stands out is his phenomenal economy rate of 5.56. He has delivered 16 overs, out of which only one went for more than 10 runs and only five times has he conceded more than six runs in an over.
The pace bowler from Uttar Pradesh was considered effective only with the new ball and was deemed to be unreliable in the death overs. However, over the past three years, he has worked hard on this aspect of the game and his efforts are reflected in his solid success.
Since IPL 2014, Kumar has picked up 44 wickets in the death overs, which is the most by any bowler.
This year too, he has been the best death bowler for Hyderabad. He has bowled seven overs between the 16th to 20th over and has given away only 37 runs. An economy rate of 5.42 in the death overs speaks volumes about Kumar’s accuracy and his improved mental strength.
Boundaries are the lifeline for a batting team in the death overs and this is exactly where Bhuvneshwar Kumar shows his class. Out of 42 deliveries he has bowled in death overs, only one went for a four only two sailed over the ropes. His ability to deny boundaries in the final stages of the innings has made him very difficult to handle.
In the initial overs as well, where fielding restrictions offer ample boundary scoring opportunities for batsmen, Bhuvi has been sensational. In the 48 deliveries he bowled during Powerplays, only five went for four and one for six. In the Powerplay overs, Kumar relies more on the swing and thus makes it harder for the batsmen to play their aggressive strokes.
Interestingly for a bowler who is known for his new ball exploits, Kumar has managed only two wickets when bowling upfront, compared to his tally of seven wickets in the death overs. The reason for this surprising number can be credited to the lines he has been bowling in this IPL.
During Powerplays, Kumar has generally bowled away from the batsmen, while in the death overs, he has mainly attacked the stumps with his pinpoint yorkers.
Another thing worth mentioning is his discipline: in four matches so far, he has bowled only one wide and hasn’t overstepped even once. Thanks to his impeccable discipline, his economy rate has remained below par.
Although he doesn’t look the part of a modern pace bowler – muscular physique, tattooed arms, intense eyes, and verbal aggression – Bhuvi is as good as any other bowler in the world, when it comes to the actual job of bowling.
He doesn’t operate at express pace, but he has overcome his speed limitations by working on his variations and control. His emergence as a complete bowler in the shorter format of the game is certainly one the biggest gains from IPL for Team India.
There was never any doubt over his abilities to swing the ball in the initial overs, but he has now also established himself as one of the finest death bowlers across the globe.
Along with SRH, Bhuvi’s outstanding success with the ball is a bonus for Team India. With the Champions Trophy to be played in England, where conditions favour swing bowling, Bhuvi could well be India’s X-factor while defending the title.