The new face of Indian bowling, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, has made a promising start to his limited-overs career with India by turning in impressive spells against Pakistan and England. The young allrounder from Uttar Pradesh has a reputation on the domestic circuit of being a prodigious swinger of the ball and this strength - in particular movement into the batsmen - has been on view in his few international outings so far.
A day before his 23rd birthday (February 5), he spoke to Cricketnext on his time with the Indian team, among other things. Excerpts ...
What were your thoughts when you were selected for the Pakistan series? Were you expecting a call from the selectors? I've been playing domestic cricket for five years and done considerably well so I always thought that the Indian call-up is around the corner. Like every cricketer, it was always a dream to don the Indian colours so when I got the news that I was in the Indian squad, I was jubilant.
The 23-year-old medium-pacer from Uttar Pradesh has made rapid strides in a short span with the Indian team and has Test cricket firmly in his sights.
What did skipper MS Dhoni told you before your first international match? He told me not to be uptight and remain calm. He advised me to bowl the way I naturally do, without taking any undue pressure, and that everything would fall into place. He's a man of few words and conveys his ideas sharply.
On Twenty20 in Bangalore, you chalked up three wickets for nine runs in four overs ... It was a dream come true and I couldn't have asked for a better debut. We were reduced for 133 so the team needed early wickets. I backed my strengths and didn't try to do anything different. But, unfortunately, we couldn't win the match.
How do you plot dismissals? It is observed that you bowl a couple outswingers and follow them with a prodigious in-dipper to fox batsmen. Swing is my strength and I have the ability to move the ball both ways. This keeps the batsmen guessing. It has fetched me a lot of wickets in the domestic circuit and now in international matches.
Your skills with the new ball are there for everyone to see but the general consensus is that you need a lot to learn about how to use the old ball. Dhoni recently said that you still have some way to go to excel in the Test arena. I concede that I'm primarily a new ball bowler right now, but I am working hard to improve my skills with the old ball. I'm striving to learn the art of reverse-swing as it is an essential weapon for Test matches. What Dhoni has said is correct and I respect his views.
There are also those who believe that if you could add a couple of yards of pace, you'd be more lethal given your penchant for swing. I think the pace will come with time. I am 23 and my best years are ahead of me. I would surely like to add to my current pace but I am not unnecessarily hassled about it. I'll go by the natural progression.
Among your recent performances, which do you rate highly? Our second ODI against England at Kochi will always be one of my most cherished moments. We had lost the first ODI so everyone in the team was quite keen to level the series. Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen were in sparkling form so it was very heartening for me that I prised both of them out. I also snared Eoin Morgan as England were skittled out for 158 chasing 286. I gave away only 29 runs in 10 overs and snapped up three early wickets to give India an upper hand.
You're being compared with your Uttar Pradesh team-mate Praveen Kumar... I take it as a compliment as he's my role-model. I have picked up plenty of tricks of the trade from him during our interaction and he's ever willing to share his experiences. We both are the same kind of bowlers so I always look forward to discussing bowling and cricket with him.
You dismissed Sachin Tendulkar for his first duck in Indian domestic cricket during the 2008-09 Ranji Trophy final. Did he say anything to you after that? That was a fantastic moment. Getting him out is itself a huge moment but dismissing him for a duck was simply unbelievable. I didn't know that time that it was the first time he was out for a duck in domestic cricket. I couldn't speak to him during that match since both of us were completely focused on the task at hand.