Kumar, now 28, did what he could, he added pace. But, initially, it seemed like he had lost his swing in the process. Now, though, he is a different beast, regularly touching 135-140kph and, as anyone who saw him in action in the Newlands Test against South Africa earlier this year knows, moving the ball around big time.
“I’ve always been able to swing it both ways,” Kumar said. “But I always wanted to add that pace, and I didn’t know how to. I worked with the trainers and the physios and what I’ve learnt is that it comes naturally with age and maturity. The pace I have now (is because) I am at the peak of my physical attributes right now. Everything comes from that physical maturity, it improved the pace a bit.”
With Kumar, one can always be sure of a couple of things: firstly, he will give it his best, run in and bowl long spells if the team requires him to; and second, he will pick up wickets more often than not. Earlier, that was more with the new ball. Not so any more. And even in limited-overs cricket, he has developed into a fine death bowler.
This is reflected in the fact that he is one of five players in the highest category of central contracts handed out by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, and was one of two players retained by his Indian Premier League franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad ahead of the ongoing season.
"Everything comes from that physical maturity, it improved the pace a bit. The IPL has helped improve me as a bowler, especially in the death overs,” he said. “It’s a short format, but a long season and two months is never easy to play. If we’ve to survive those two months, if you’ve to win the tournament, you’ve to do well – as a strike bowler, I really had to do well to ensure matches are won.
“Those responsibilities, that need to do well regularly in a long season, those are the things that improved me as a bowler, and the team as well.”
The numbers tell the story. Since 2014, he has picked up 20, 18, 23 and 26 wickets in the four years of action. His average hasn’t crossed 22.61 in this period and his poorest economy rate for a season has been 7.87.
The other player retained by the Hyderabad franchise this year was David Warner, who has since been banned by Cricket Australia for 12 months for his role in the ball-tampering incident in the Cape Town Test last month.
That led to an understandable flutter in the Hyderabad camp, what with Warner having established himself as the first-choice leader of the team and its premier batsman.
“It’s difficult to say he would have helped. He’s a very good batsman and has done very well for us in the last few years. But it wouldn’t be right on the other batsmen to say that having him would have helped,” said Kumar.
“Whoever is playing, they’re good players – that’s why they are playing. They have done so well for other franchises, and that’s why Sunrisers picked them. So yes, it’s all about accepting things happened, and moving on. You cannot replace a batsman like Warner, but we have other batsmen who can do well in this format as well.”
First Published: April 24, 2018, 7:50 AM IST