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Kumar

A glorious return to action: Bhuvneshwar's brilliant March

Player of the Month

Hit For Six!
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Sidelined from international cricket for more than a year, Bhuvneshwar Kumar made up for lost time against England. We look back on the performances that earned him the crown of ICC Men's Player of the Month for March.

By the numbers
ODIs
Six wickets at 22.50. Economy of 4.65. Best bowling of 3/42
T20Is
Four wickets at 28.85. Economy of 6.38. Best bowling of 2/15

Return to international cricket

A length ball pitched outside off and miscued by Jason Roy over cover. It was a delivery of little note in the context of the match or the series, but one of serious significance to Bhuvneshwar’s career and India’s plans for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup.

It was the mercurial swing bowler’s first delivery in international cricket in 15 months – a period in which he had had to deal with more than the odd setback.

His last outing, against the West Indies in 2019, had ended in a groin injury. That was followed by a sports hernia that ruled him out of the 2019/20 tour of New Zealand and required surgery.

His expected return to international duty against South Africa in March 2020 was then scuppered by the pandemic and like the rest of the world he had to bide his time.

When the Indian Premier League returned last September, he got back on the field only for his tournament to be cut short by a thigh injury that would ultimately rule him out of India’s tour of Australia.

You would have forgiven the 31-year-old for any rustiness on his eventual, well overdue return to the big stage. Instead, the veteran laid claims to being the bowler of the series in both the ODI and T20I legs against England.

“Bhuvi missed nearly a year and a half of international cricket through multiple unrelated injuries, but you’d never have guessed,” VVS Laxman, ICC Voting Academy member, said.

“He was outstanding in both the Power Play overs and at the death in the white-ball formats against a powerful, aggressive England batting line-up. Economical and penetrative, he was instrumental in shaping Indian triumphs in both series.”

Stepping up in the T20I series

The T20I series between India and England saw willow dominate leather as two of cricket's strongest batting units made the most of favourable conditions.

Only four of the 14 bowlers used in the series finished with an economy better than eight an over. Bhuvneshwar was the best of them by the length of the straight, leaking a miserly 6.38 an over, bowling his full allotment in all but one game.

When considering that figure, it is worth remembering a seamer like Bhuvneshwar bowls almost exclusively in the PowerPlay or at the death, when keeping things tight can be almost impossible.

Playing his first international series in more than a year, he was pivotal to India’s 3-2 win and captain Virat Kohli will be hoping he can prove just as effective when the T20 World Cup comes around.

The difference in the ODIs

He was even better in the ODIs as India claimed a 2-1 series win.

Incredibly, eight batsmen finished the ODIs averaging more than 50 and eight posted 120+ strike rates for the series. Like the T20Is, it was another series where those swinging the willow filled their boots.

Bhuvneshwar proved the difference, achieving an economy of 4.65 across his 29 overs. That’s impressive in any era but especially in a series where only two other bowlers leaked less than a run-a-ball.

His best performance came in the decider, where he took 3/42, removing Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow inside the opening three overs.

“On splendid batting surfaces where pacers were under the kosh surviving on variations and cutters, Bhuvi aced his competitors with swing variation and control,” Rameez Raja, ICC Voting Academy member, said.

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