“With Bhuvneshwar’s ouster, India have not only lost a skilful bowler, but also someone who could chip in with some valuable runs lower down the order”.
Brilliant display at Cape Town, but….
After a disheartening campaign at Cape Town, India have a lot of hopes pinned on the Centurion encounter. India’s batting failed to click and didn’t manage to garner the required runs in both the innings as a result of which, they paid the price.
A team is bound to undergo few changes after such a poor outing and so was India. Coming to Centurion, it is a decisive game for the visiting side. At the toss, when Virat Kohli revealed the changes made in the playing XI, seldom would have expected Bhuvneshwar Kumar to be left out.
Yes, India’s strike bowler Bhuvneshwar was rested to make way for Ishant Sharma. The move left many bewildered including some cricketing pundits. Kohli has developed a knack for tinkering with the combination as the condition changes slightly, but Bhuvneshwar’s exclusion was a big question mark.
Indian bowlers managed to get the better of South African batting on both the occasion in Cape Town. There was no question regarding their ability to do well in South African conditions, and not many would have expected for a change in this department. Why repair something that is not broken?
Bhuvneshwar Kumar produced a deadly spell with the new ball in the first innings; he ran through the South African top-order with the rare art of swing bowling. He had four wickets in his basket from the first innings, it would have been a fifer had Shikhar Dhawan not dropped a sitter in the slip cordon.
Bhuvneshwar also chipped in with some crucial runs and spent enough time at the crease (25 in the first innings). In the second innings, he had two scalps and remained unbeaten on 13. He was the most successful Indian bowler and had well enough to retain his place for the second game. But his exclusion was baffling, really baffling.
A surprising exclusion!
After losing the first Test, skipper Kohli shed light on what went wrong for India. “We are happy with the way bowlers went about their business. The batting did not come together well. So we are not worried about the bowling front at all. We are in a very good space and we believe that we can get them out twice again in this game and you definitely need to do that to win Test matches but you need a solid batting performance,” Kohli told the media.
Going by Kohli’s words, none would have expected the bowling department to undergo any transformation. Yes, batting needed few changes. And on Saturday, when Kohli announced his playing XI at the toss, many eyebrows were raised. Cricketing greats including Allan Donald and VVS Laxman were shocked when Bhuvneshwar was replaced by Ishant.
Shuffling a well-established bowler will only break his rhythm and momentum. On alien land, it is pivotal for a side to give their players enough breathing space to get the rhythm and tempo right. They need to give their players a longer rope to get used to the conditions. Bhuvneshwar has evolved as a Test bowler and Cape Town stint was a testament to it.
Although he was a tad expensive in the first Test, that just cannot be a valid enough reason for the exclusion of a bowler of his calibre. This will only create pressure and a feeling of insecurity among the players if they are not assured of their place in the playing XI. Who knows, at Johannesburg, Bhuvneshwar would have been successful with the new ball? He makes the best use of the shining red cherry and could have put South Africa on the back foot like he did at Cape Town.
On batting-friendly conditions, India were lucky enough to have kept South Africa at 269 for 6, but one should also remember there were a couple of run-outs involved. South Africa still have some batting left and well capable of reaching the 400-run mark. Yes, Ishant did bowl with a lot of maturity and astuteness, picking the key wicket of AB de Villiers, but Bhuvneshwar’s ouster hardly made any sense so far in the Test.
India desperately need a win or a draw, to say the least in order to keep the series alive. They need to pull their game up as South Africa will always be a tough nut to crack. With Bhuvneshwar’s ouster, India have not only lost a skilful bowler, but also someone who could chip in with some valuable runs lower down the order.