"--IANS/RAY"
London, July 20 (IANS/RAY) Bhuvneshwar Kumar's all-round performance in India's first two Test matches on the current tour of England has been a revelation. While he was expected to do well with the leather, being a swing bowler - and English conditions lend themselves to this type of an exponent - it is the extent of his success so far and his emergence as a batsman that has taken even experts by surprise.

After making his Test debut against Australia last year, Bhuvneshwar had played six Tests in India prior to arriving in England. In fact, despite being in the touring party, he didn't get a look in on the visits to South Africa and New Zealand over the winter.

But with the Indian selectors' decision to dispense with Zaheer Khan, Kumar's inclusion in the playing XI became a near certainty.

Before landing on English soil, he had captured nine wickets in his half a dozen Test appearances.

In his first two innings in England, he has grabbed 11 - five at Trent Bridge and six in the first innings at Lord's.

As purists would say looking down one's front arm at the point of delivery is advisable for a swing bowler. Bhuvneshwar does just that.

But what has amazed observers is his batting prowess. Prior to the current series, he looked promising as a batsman without quite delivering.

In the mentioned six tests, he aggregated 96 runs with a highest score of 38. Now, in two Tests, he has recorded 209 runs, including three half centuries and a score or 32.

In short, he has been the most consistent batsman for the Indians bar Murali Vijay - a truly extraordinary feat for a number nine wielder of the willow.

He has batted with determination and responsibility. He has put a high price on his wicket. And he has played straight with a sound technique. Just as much as he carved out stellar roles in the two outings at Trent Bridge, he did an encore Sunday.

When he arrived at the crease with India 235 for seven in the second innings, the tourists' lead was a precarious 211 and the second ball was just 2.4 overs old.

Not only did Kumar weather the storm, albeit with a few fortuitous edges to begin with, but posted a 99 run partnership with Ravindra Jadeja to virtually guide the game out of England's grasp.

If the swing merchant of Meerut persists in such vein, he would open up options for India's tour selectors to promote him in the batting order.

Stuart Binny deserves another Test. However, should the Indians decide to opt for the genuine pace of Varun Aaron instead, Bhuvneshwar could conceivably be considered for the number eight position.

Meanwhile, now that he has set up a possible Indian victory in the second Test with the bat, it would be fitting if he finishes the job with the ball.

--IANS/RAY

sr/pm/


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