WORLD CUP 2019
Bhuvneshwar Kumar steered clear of calling the Indian pace attack the best in the world, but believes they can adapt to any conditions © AFP
Bhuvneshwar Kumar is among the seven players in India’s current World Cup squad who were part of the previous edition of the tournament four years ago. His ability to move the ball around has made him an integral member of the Indian ODI team for a few years now. The 29-year-old had an up-and-down IPL season for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the lead-up to the World Cup but is looking forward to bowling in England at the showpiece event.
In an exclusive chat with TOI, Bhuvneshwar spoke about his recent injuries, the experience of bowling with Bumrah and Shami, the impact of IPL in the lead-up to the big event and more.
This will be your second ODI World Cup. How have you evolved as a bowler since the last World Cup in 2015?
There has definitely been an improvement in my bowling in terms of pace and variations like the slower ball and knuckle ball. To add to that, I have improved fitness-wise.
With the likes of Shami and Bumrah for company, do you feel this is India’s best ever pace attack?
I don’t want to comment on whether we are the best or not because our performance on the field is what will define our attack. Our performances over the last few years speak for us. The Indian bowling attack has grown from strength to strength. Today, we can say that our pace attack can make an impact on any surface.
How do you see your competition with Shami and Bumrah who have done well recently? Do you reckon you have work to do to catch up with them when it comes to getting the nod for the first XI?
Each one of us has our own strengths that we bring to the bowling unit. It is always a good thing that whoever is getting a chance in the playing XI has been performing well. As a bowling unit – we back ourselves to do well in any conditions.
You have been hit by injuries in the last 12 months and missed a lot of cricket. Has it taken a toll on your bowling?
Injuries are part and parcel of a player’s career. When you are injured and are undergoing rehabilitation, it is important to stay positive and not allow negative thoughts to creep in. During those times that you are away from the game, it is important to work harder and come back stronger.
Your ability to bowl at the death overs remains one of your major plus points. Do you feel you have struggled to match up to those high standards in recent times?
I don’t think so. If you see in the last few games of the IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad – I was able to execute my plans and that’s a very good sign. I am happy with the way things are going at the moment.
The knuckle ball is one of the deliveries you have mastered in the last few years. Do you feel batsmen are able to pick that well?
Batsmen are definitely aware of bowlers who bowl the knuckle ball and are prepared for it. But it also gives us opportunity as a bowler to be smarter while delivering the ball.
Do you feel IPL was the right kind of preparation before the World Cup?
IPL has definitely given players the much-needed match practice before the World Cup. Once you have wickets and runs under your belt, the confidence levels automatically go up. For me, it was important to be in good rhythm and be among wickets which I was able to do for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
What’s your take as a player when it comes to workload management for those featuring in the World Cup?
I think each player is aware of what he needs to do to be in the best shape for the World Cup. The IPL gave players crucial time on the field playing competitive cricket that should stand them in good stead ahead for the big event.
Going to the World Cup, who do you think are the most difficult batsmen to bowl to?
Going by IPL, Andre Russell was superb while my SRH teammate – David Warner – too was in great touch. They are the kind of players who can take the game away from you and it’s imperative that you are at your best while bowling to them.
With pitches in England becoming flatter over the years, how do you assess Indian bowlers’ chances in the World Cup?
I agree that pitches in England in the last few years have been flat, but teams will be wary of India’s bowling unit since we can be potent both at the start and at the death. It will all boil down to how we execute the plans on the given day.
Preparation-wise, is there anything different you do while bowling in England?
I have always enjoyed bowling in England because there is some swing around, which is my strength. Unlike in India, pitches in England don’t usually get slower as the game progresses. So depending on whether the ball is moving or not, I make my plans.