Sachin Tendulkar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. (TOI Photo)
CHENNAI: Bhuvneshwar Kumar burst into the public consciousness as a 19-year-old when he got Sachin Tendulkar out for his first duck in first-class cricket back in 2009. Playing for Uttar Pradesh, Bhuvi dismissed the Indian batting legend with the 14th delivery of his spell.
The right-arm fast bowler’s cutter got the inside edge of Tendulkar’s bat and hit the pads to scoop up in the air. The fielder at deep short-leg position ran and completed the catch. Eleven years might have passed since the incident but Bhuvi says that it still gives him goosebumps.
“It was a fortunate moment for me to get him out. I really cannot explain it in words. These are the kind of moments which you can just feel and cannot explain,” Bhuvneshwar said in a webinar organised by GainAccess Sports & Entertainment and SportzPower.
The 30-year-old said that credit should also go to former India and UP batsman Mohammed Kaif for placing the fielder in an unorthodox position. “It was a kind of cutter and it held its line till the last moment. There aren’t many bowlers in the world who are expert in that and I always say that the credit for the wicket also goes to Kaif. This is because he placed the fielder in a very awkward position. Generally, there is no such position in the book. But the ball went to the fielder and he didn’t make any mistake with the catch. So I would say that the credit should also go to Kaif,” he asserted.
The pacer also recalled an interesting anecdote before the day’s play. “We were staying in the same hotel during the match. So I was coming out of my room in the hotel and saw that Sachin Tendulkar’s room was adjacent to mine. So I stepped back into my room and kept the door ajar. It was only when Sachin paaji stepped out of his room and was walking towards the lift that I came out.
“Inside the lift, I was noticing him while he was busy with his phone. I was so in awe of him that I was just seeing how he behaves before the match. When I was to bowl at him, I was just thinking about the fact that I am now going to bowl at him. I was not focusing on how I have to bowl. A 19-year-old kid was just bowling at the best batsman in the world and he was not sure of what he was doing. It was such an awe-inspiring moment for me,” Bhuvi said.
A fit-again Bhuvneshwar was all set to return to competitive cricket in the ODI series against South Africa, scheduled to be held in March earlier this year. But the Coronavirus outbreak in the country meant that the series had to be cancelled.
However, Bhuvneshwar, who recovered from a sports hernia injury, was okay with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)’s decision. Expecting that the Coronavirus pandemic will be over soon, the pacer, who already missed several important series, including India’s tour of New Zealand, thought he will be back in action soon. His wait, though, is prolonged now as the infection is showing no signs of abating.
“I was coming back to the Indian team after a gap of four months. Even though I was raring to go, I was okay with BCCI’s decision to cancel the series because I had thought that it (the problem created by the virus) would be soon over. Now, we play so much cricket that you could miss out on four series in the space of those four months. So I was willing to bowl my heart out if I got a chance. But then I didn’t think that the wait will be for so long because initially I really thought the Coronavirus pandemic will be over soon,” Bhuvneshwar said.
While the first match of the India-South Africa series in Dharamsala was washed out, the second match in Lucknow was supposed to be played behind closed doors. However, such was the crisis that the Board of Control for Cricket in India couldn’t take any risks and the visiting South African players too returned to their country.
“After the first ODI was washed out in Dharamsala on March 12, we travelled to Lucknow for the second match. It was decided that we will play behind closed doors. We felt a bit awkward because there were won’t be any spectators. However, the entire series was abandoned eventually. Even then, I felt this pandemic will be over soon and we will return back to our normal lives. But now, it is going to be difficult to get back to the game,” the paceman said.
The fate of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is still hanging in the balance. With the Coronavirus situation in the country showing no signs of easing, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is yet to decide on the annual event even though the Board president Sourav Ganguly has asked the state associations to prepare for the tournament. What is also hindering BCCI’s plans is whether the ICC will finally hold the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year.
While there are a lot of questions to be answered, Bhuvneshwar backed the BCCI to conduct the IPL this year. “I want IPL to happen this year because I cannot see any international series happening anytime soon involving our team. See, if the T20 World Cup does takes place, then you obviously would be playing it. But if it doesn’t then, IPL is something which should take place. I have been reading interviews of quite a few overseas players and they are all eager for IPL to happen,” Bhuvi said.
The 30-year-old fast bowler though feels that cricket being a team sport will change a lot in a post-Covid world. He says it might be difficult to follow all the protocols like social distancing in a team sport.
“It’s a big change for us with cricket being a team sport. Being around 15 guys all the time and on top of that there are support staff and the number increases to 20-25 people… So it might be difficult initially when we return to the team because we generally train together and get close to each other while practising. So we have to follow a few norms when we get back to the Indian team,” said Bhuvi.
Bhuvneshwar, who recovered from a sports hernia injury, was supposed to be back in action against South Africa in March earlier this year before the ODI series got cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
But the Indian pacer isn’t disheartened. In fact, he has been keeping himself fit and prepared at his home during the lockdown. “I was out for four months due to injuries. Now, we play so much cricket that you could miss out on four series in the space of those four months. Someone new could come and take your place in the side by performing well in those four series. So I am trying to keep myself fit,” Bhuvi said.
The Meerut fast bowler says that training at home is very different from what he is used to doing with the Indian team. “Training at home alone is completely different to how we train when we are in the Indian team. It is because we don’t have that kind of equipment. But then, it’s about keeping yourself motivated and keep thinking that when you go back to the team, you want to be a better version of yourself,” he said.
There is an increased emphasis on fitness in the Indian team and Bhuvi doesn’t want his fitness levels to drop down when he joins the side. “You know you don’t want the fitness levels to drop when you are hitting the ground. You don’t want to start from zero. So you have to keep a basic level of fitness. But definitely it is different from team culture. However, these are difficult times and you have to maintain and adhere to a few norms to be safe and keep others safe,” the 30-year-old said.
The paceman is confident of returning to 100 per cent fitness once he hits the ground. “I know when I return to the ground and train, I can definitely reach my 100 per cent fitness level. However, if I can maintain a basic level of fitness while training at home, it will be a win-win situation for me,” Bhuvi asserted.