“I never thought in my dreams that I would score fifty in One-dayers. Not fifty but a match-winning knock because One-Day is a kind of format which doesn’t suit my batting as I am not the kind of batsman who can hit big sixes,” Bhuvneshwar Kumar said after his maiden ODI fifty in Pallekele last month. Bhuvneshwar, who scored in 30s just once since his debut in 2012 until last month, suddenly now has made a crucial contribution down the order in two back-to-back innings. He has had India’s best-ever finisher, MS Dhoni, with him both the times.
In the second ODI against Sri Lanka, in August, Bhuveneshwar joined Dhoni in the middle, after India were struck by off-spinner Akila Dananjaya as they lost last six wickets for mere 18 runs. The target was not huge; India needed another 105 runs with almost 30 overs in hand. All Bhuveneshwar had to do was stick around with Dhoni.
What followed next turned out to be one of the memorable moments in the fast bowler’s life and that in turn gave a positive sign in terms of Indian team’s future.
The ‘God of finishing’ Dhoni said to his pupil to not limit his shots on the backfoot but play naturally as he does in Test cricket. “When I went in to bat, MS told me to play my natural game like I play in Test cricket and don’t take any pressure as we had a lot of overs at that time,” Bhuvneshwar recalled after he shared a record 100-run partnership with Dhoni for the eighth wicket that denied a sole chance for the Lankans to finally beat India on the tour.
Despite coming to bat after Dhoni, Bhuvneshwar ended with 53 runs to Dhoni’s 45 and that, surely, would have bolstered his confidence. In between their partnership, Dhoni kept on motivating him and by no means did the senior man put even a bit of pressure on Bhuvneshwar. “MS said play as you want to play. So at one particular stage I felt that I could play some attacking but risk-free shots on which I had full confidence,” the pacer said.
He had acknowledged the fact that he initially panicked when he struggled to play Dananjaya’s deliveries.
Being a good mentor on the field, Dhoni passed his nature of never panicking to his batting partner when the duo, had a mission of pulling India back into the match, ahead of it.
A bowler, who hardly believed himself as a big-hitting batsman, suddenly chose boundaries over just taking singles and doubles. The fact that Bhuvneshwar, at a critical stage in the match, showed confidence in his shots and testified that he can hit the big ones, would have increased Dhoni’s faith in him.
Dhoni and Bhuvi have been with the Indian team, in limited-overs, for a very long time now. They have batted together on several instances in the past and now finally have begun to click as a pair.
If a few considered Bhuvi’s match-winning knock a fluke, he had another incredible innings up his sleeves. He unleashed it on Sunday against the Australians in Chennai.
On an Indian track that possessed relatively more bounce and pace than it usually does, Team India were in miserable trouble when Nathan Coulter-Nile and his pace attack ran through the Indian top and middle-order as they reduced them to 87 for 5 in 21.3 overs. Although the match will be remembered for Hardik Pandya’s insane knock of 83 runs off 66 balls, where in his first 40 runs he had not hit a boundary, but eventually ended with five each of fours and sixes. There were two more batsmen who revived the Indian innings.
Bhuvi and Dhoni, again.
It was for a second consecutive time for Bhuvi that he provided Dhoni the support that tailored the lower-order and ensured an unbelievable total after the collapse in the initial stages. He put up a 72-run stand for the seventh wicket with the former Indian skipper and remained unbeaten on 32 off 30 balls. The knock was inclusive of five boundaries. Pandya’s dismissal gave Australia back their lost confidence, that was crushed by the all-rounder, by Bhuvi ensured he finished the job with Dhoni.
Maybe, its way too early to even begin a debate about if Bhuvi can be groomed into a finisher. But, slowly and secretly, he is becoming the unlikely hero, India could get. He has always stepped up with the ball, whenever India have wanted a breakthrough, but his new character with the bat seems to be giving a new ray of hope, keeping Dhoni’s future in mind. You never know, if Dhoni has already begun grooming Bhuvi. It is a known fact that with Virat Kohli already taken the baton of captaincy, Dhoni will want India to find a finisher before he begins to lose time.
It is not a written rule that a finisher should only be a regular batsman. WIth his knocks in Pallekele and Chennai, Bhuvi has shown glimpses of having the characters of a responsible and dependable batsman lower the order, who has the capability to take charge during crisis. He has a First-Class hundred, 14 fifties and three List A fifties. Dhoni has enough time to discover if Bhuvi is the right choice for the role.