It’s been ten years, but Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s debut in what was the last bilateral series between India and Pakistan seems like yesterday. The first-ever delivery of his international career waved away and after a vicious pitching, he came in to disrupt opener Nasir Jamshed’s wood. Bhuvneshwar has not thrown such an episode for the past two years. Now expected to lead the Indian assault at the T20 World Cup, his own death overs appearance is under the scanner.
There were some good spells, but against good teams that magic or ‘X factor’ was clearly lacking.
He’s played 78 T20Is since that wicket episode and a career economy of 7.02 seems more than decent, but what’s proved the downfall of the Meerut man is handling the responsibility during the death-overs.
Since 2021, Bhuvneshwar has played 23 T20I games for India and has only taken 15 wickets from them.
But that’s not the main concern. The biggest factor is the 159 deliveries he has thrown at death (between the 17th and the 20th) and the 266 runs he has conceded at a 10.03 economy rate.
He has conceded 23 extras, but more importantly, he has been crushed for 20 fours and 12 sixes in those 23 innings.
These are the numbers that are far from satisfactory. Scary in fact, as Bhuvneshwar will lead a rag-tag Indian attack at the T20 World Cup, with team management still unsure how Mohammed Shami would mold it.
Harbhajan Singh, a member of the 2007 T20 World Cup team, believes that Deepak Chahar should be chosen for Bhuvneshwar with the current form and skills.
He thinks that if they’re both on the same squad, the attack seems a bit one-dimensional.
Harbhajan has in fact made an analysis of each of the bowlers going to the World Cup.
Missing Jasper Bumrah
“Jassi (Bumrah’s nickname) is the only Indian bowler who can take the pitch out of the equation because of the accuracy of his blockhole deliveries,” Harbhajan explained why the bowling attack wouldn’t be as effective as with Bumrah.
“To bowl Yorkers you need certain skills and it has nothing to do with the lane. Yes, Jassi gets hit too, but he only gets hit twice, maybe out of 10 balls. That’s why he’s exceptional.” he explained.
Deepak Chahar vs Bhuvneshwar Kumar debate
With Shami’s recovery after Covid still under scrutiny, Chahar’s sharp bowling at the start is something that can only bring India wickets, the ‘turban’ feels.
Deepak Chahar is the only bowler who can swing the ball forward and both ways and it looks like he’s getting 2-3 wickets in Powerplay.
“His inswinger is as deadly as his outswing and he can move even in non-conducive conditions. At this stage where we are now, Deepak is a more skilled bowler compared to Bhuvneshwar in the current scenario.
“Bhuvi has a lot of experience and he will win games, but 8-10 runs in 19th over won’t hurt, but once it’s 15 and above the game slips away. So Deepak would be my choice.”
Arshdeep has courage but needs experience
Arshdeep Singh’s career is still fledgling but of the three bowlers in the main quad, he had the most decent economy rate of 8.03 since 2021. He has conceded 166 runs in 121 balls and in the death overs it’s just four sixes .
South Africa series played on quiet tracks
“Look, Arsh is a great talent and one for the future. Also, if you’re a seam on the left arm, you’re going to create those corners that can take hold. But he does need some help from the track where he can set it up and the ball gets a little off track,” Harbhajan said.
“He is still very raw and has to bowl a lot in various pressure situations before getting hardened. Just to expect that he will be able to execute each of the six balls as planned under pressure would be unfair to a youngster.
But he has the temperament and the skills, but would need an experienced bowler around him.”
Decoding Harshal Patel’s Problems
After an astonishing 51 wickets from two IPL seasons (32 in 2021 and 19 in 2022), Harshal Patel had become the toast of the nation with his variation of dipping slower deliveries.
But a look at Harshal’s death statistics for India will make anyone shudder.
He has thrown 172 balls in 21 innings on death since his debut and conceded 312 runs at an economy rate of 10.88, but more importantly he has hit more sixes than fours, taking just 13 wickets.
In fact, batters hit 25 maximums on his deliveries, along with 16 limits.
What actually went wrong with Harshal, who has otherwise quite regularly bowled at least three of his quota of four overs between the 15th and 20th in an innings for RCB in IPL? “Harshal probably has a better slower delivery than all Indian bowlers who play T20. But there is a rider. For Harshal Patel’s slower delivery to be effective, the court must have grip and hold (in common parlance, balls must stop and come ).
“If you see Harshal’s performance in the 2021 IPL where the first leg was played by RCB in Chennai and then in UAE. Now in Chennai Chepauk’s surface is very sticky and the ball will hold.
“Bring the best T20 batter to Chepauk, even today if Harshal’s form is waning a bit. He will be unplayable in the 16th, 18th or 20th transfer. The slower ones will grip and not sit comfortably,” stated he.
Harbhajan explained that slower delivery factors – the grip either from the back of the hand or when off-break according to a bowler’s liking and the slowness of the lane.
“But look at the field in Mohali, Guwahati or Indore, these were real battle marks. Harshal’s slower ones don’t last.
“The ball hits nicely and at a height where the batter can hit it between deep square leg to deep mid-wicket or even straight with plenty of time at their disposal.
“Even batters do their homework and will be hard on you. Think of an IPL match in Mumbai where Jaddu (Jadeja) literally knocked the skin off the ball when Harshal was bowling,” he explained.
And Harbhajan believes that using a slower ball on Australian circuits where the ball has no grip could make it difficult for Harshal, as batters already expect a full-throw slower ball from him.
“The slower full pitch may not work with MCG, SCG or Adelaide because the balls have no grip on these surfaces. In the case of a slow bumper, all Aussie terrains have large side boundaries and there is a chance you will need extra explosive power to clean it up and can be caught,” he said.
He has the x factor and can make a lot of runs as his inexperience can lead to him being a bit quirky with his line and height but not many cricketers in the world are blessed with a speed of 150 clicks and if he is at least 3 -4 imminent deliveries in a two-over spell, at least a wicket or two can be assured.
Umran goes as a net bowler but Harbhajan won’t mind if Chetan Sharma and Rahul Dravid jump in and take him in in case Mohammed Shami is unavailable.
“I think the whole country is praying for Shami, but we have to be ready if he is not available.”