Reticence isn’t a virtue in sport these days. It’s even antithetical for fast bowlers— those generally snarling, gnarling types, reports the Indian Express. It’s often perceived a fallibility, for being able to intimidate is reckoned as much as a part of your weaponry as, say, your yorker or bouncer. So, thrust by the ways of the world, you see even the by-nature passive (some argue whether there ever can be such a thing as a passive pacer) faster bowlers put on that second skin of aggression— verbals and glares, snides and sneers, pseudo-aggression perhaps, but the implicit norm.
But for every norm, there has to be exceptions. Sunrisers Hyderabad, who confronted Kolkata Knight Riders for the second-qualifier spot, had as many as two, Mustafizur Rahman and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who passed off as quiet, unaffected characters, drifters in a sense, contently relying on their gifts with the ball than their ability to intimidate batsmen. Their numbers in this IPL convince us that fast bowlers— even moderately faster bowlers as they are— needn’t be all that macho and swagger on the field. It neither exaggerates their threat not hides their weakness. And if you aren’t a natural at intimidating batsmen with your body language, it’s pointless, and often counterproductive, to attempt or even feign it.
Both Bhuvneshwar and Mustafizur, this season, have evolved as masters of this more gentler, old-fashioned art of deception. You could hardly see them glaring back at the batsmen or engaging them with in a verbal fling. Nonetheless, they have been priceless for the Sunrisers’ cause this season. With the dysfunctionality of their middle order and bluntness of their spinners, they wouldn’t have even imagined a play-off zone. There is a particular piece of stat that fully coveys their collective utility: both of them have accounted for nearly half of the wickets the Sunrisers have taken this season (34 of 70 wickets) while bowling more than one third of their teams overs (107 of the 304 overs). Further numerical proof of their combined resourcefulness lies in their ability to rack up dot balls (Mustafizur has bowled 123 and Bhuvneshwar 128, that is nearly 42 maiden overs). Bhuvneshnwar’s economy is a creditable 7.75. The left-armer’s economy rate is a glittering, best in class 6.71.
Ironically, both weren’t exactly billed to reap such staggering success in this format. Pace was a damning handicap for both. Bhuvneshwar was reckoned something of a one-dimensional proposition; not blessed with a bagful of arcane tricks, someone who’s condition-reliant with a suspect yorker, a bouncer that doesn’t crank upwards of 130 kmphs. They also gauged that once the novelty factor of Mustafizur wears off, his cutters would lose the sting and he’ll become easy fodder for rampaging batsmen. But have debunked the notions around them. Bhuvneshwar, humble his tricks may be, reinforced the virtues of precision and accuracy in this format. He has considerably worked on his variations. His yorkers are sharper, though not delivered at extreme pace. His slower balls have become harder to pick, and for the third campaign on the spin, he has been amongst the wickets.
His Bangladeshi counterpart, meanwhile, has proved that his cutters, despite the novelty fading away a trifle, isn’t easily decipherable, let alone be punished. Then, even if you decode the cutters, he can tease you with his subtle variations without any perceptible change in action. Those loose, supple wrists can make the ball jump and stop alarmingly at batsmen. Numerous have been the instances of batsmen having miscued his length balls to the cover region. Even the inscrutable Virat Kohli, orchestrator of four centuries in IPL 9, hasn’t played him assuredly. They haven’t had much of a prolonged exchange in the middle, but in 10 balls in two matches, Kolhi managed only eight runs against him, and perished to him once, ill-advisedly attempting to slap him through point.
Together, they have compensated for the injured Ashish Nehra, who was extremely influential until he lasted. They were allied to an extent by Barinder Sran and Moises, making them the most proficient medium-pace bowling unit in the league. Not very breathtaking, but efficient. They have, so far, successfully, papered over their most glaring crack-the lack of a quality spinner. They have owned 66 of the 70 wickets they have plucked, which is stunning piece of stat for a side plying in the subcontinent. Also, they have the lowest economy rate in the Powerplay (6.73).EditorDesk | Published On:May 27, 2016