The announcement of India’s Test squad for the challenging tour of England last Friday (May 7) was a bitter pill to swallow for Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
More than three years since his last outing in whites, a period in which India’s pace stocks have skyrocketed, Bhuvneshwar was effectively told that his Test career has potentially ended in the selector’s heads.
However, Bhuvneshwar Kumar remains integral to India’s white-ball plans and is extremely crucial to the setup ahead of the successive T20 World Cups and the ODI World Cup in 2023.
A string of injuries may have triggered his ouster from the Test squad and sealed his future in the whites, but Bhuvneshwar is still one of the world’s finest contemporary white-ball paceman when in form and at his fittest.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s class was evident through the limited-overs leg of England’s India visit in March when he proved to be the stand-out paceman from either side. In absence of two of India’s first-choice quicks Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar led the inexperienced attack with distinction.
Why India should appoint Bhuvneshwar Kumar as captain for Sri Lanka tour
Bhuvneshwar took 4 wickets and went at an economy rate of only 6.39 in the high-scoring T20I series in Ahmedabad and backed it up with six scalps at an average of 22.50 and economy rate of 4.66 in the ODIs in Pune. The veteran fast-bowler was arguably the biggest reason why India clinch victories by a margin of 3-2 and 2-1 in either format.
That, Bhuvneshwar Kumar could make such a resounding comeback to the team after prolonged absence and do so while having to cover up major holes in the Indian attack on batting-friendly surfaces, reinforced his range as a bowler and also the strength of character, his temperament.
Through his performances, Bhuvneshwar also showed incredible leadership qualities and you don’t need to be wearing the captaincy badge for them to come to the fore. Bhuvneshwar has always been a go-to man for India’s white-ball teams, one of its strongest pillars on the field.
Bhuvneshwar has taken 103 wickets @ 25.66 with an economy of 4.52 in 74 ODI victories he has been part of and has bagged 33 scalps while going for 6.79 runs per over in 29 T20I wins. That reflects an amazing body of work and influence towards his team’s cause in a career spanning nearly a decade.
Thus, it’s baffling that many don’t think of Bhuvneshwar Kumar as one of the captaincy candidates for the tour Sri Lanka in July, with opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan and all-rounder Hardik Pandya above on the discussion table in case Shreyas Iyer is unavailable.
From the selectors and the management’s point of view as well, it’s highly surprising that Bhuvneshwar isn’t higher on the pedestal and in consideration for captaincy in absence of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
It’s a vote of confidence that Bhuvneshwar deserves and needs after facing the axing from the Test squad and hurting personally over it, potentially feeling uncertain of his future and slightly insecure.
The decision-makers can’t leave him on his own in that state of mind, Bhuvneshwar requires upliftment in his morale right now and being appointed captain could add a spring to his stride, could rejuvenate him and spur him on to greater heights.
Making him captain now will reiterate Bhuvneshwar’s stature within the team and convey him his importance. With no long-term connotations to the Sri Lanka tour, it’s an opportunity that the selectors and the management shouldn’t miss. They might look back at their decision with fondness if Bhuvneshwar Kumar bounces back and goes on to help them win a major title or two in the coming years.