Hyderabad, Oct. 17 -- After two days of grabbing eyeballs and headlines, Yuvraj finally decided to step out of the sun and into the shadows. The respite from the harsh October heat was provided by, perhaps prophetically, the VVS Laxman Pavilion of the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad.
In the final hour of play on the third day of the Duleep Trophy semifinal between North Zone and Central, the comeback hero moved out of the slips, to long-on. Of course, he was not the only one who found himself down by the boundary rope - eight others were too, including Parvinder Awana at deep fine, Rahul Sharma at third man and Mandeep Singh at deep gully.
This ultra-defensive field had been set by skipper Shikhar Dhawan, himself at sweeper cover, for Ishant Sharma, even as the lanky quick marked his run-up seven overs from stumps with his team just a wicket away from gaining a potentially decisive first-innings lead.
No mug with bat
On strike was Bhuvneshwar Kumar, a 21-year-old veteran of three India 'A' tours including the ones to West Indies and New Zealand this year. The Uttar Pradesh medium pacer had come in at the fall of Central's sixth wicket, skipper Mohammad Kaif getting his leg-stump knocked back by an Amit Mishra googly following a rather irresponsible charge 15 minutes from lunch. Over the course of nearly four hours since that dismissal, though, Bhuvnesh had done enough to show that he was no mug with the bat. Having seen his teammates throw their wicket away and his side reduced to 342 for nine, he assumed the role of an established batsman.
Off the first ball of the 138th over, Bhuvnesh tapped Ishant down to third man. Next up was a straight-batted push to long-off, and a square-drive to the sweeper. On all three occasions, Rituraj was told to stay his ground.
Nothing unusual - Bhuvnesh had been refusing easy singles for quite some time, just to shield his partner, the No 11. Except that any one of those three singles would have brought up his maiden first-class century. Trusting Rituraj to ward off the final two deliveries of the over, Bhuvnesh neatly tucked it to deep mid-wicket and brought up the landmark in a remarkable display of selflessness.
Perhaps it was the setting - it is, after all, the same ground where he had his Warholian moment, snagging Sachin Tendulkar for a first-ever domestic duck. Or, maybe, it was just the fact that, amidst those thinking about what might have been had their IPL team qualified for CLT20 or reminiscing about days past, Bhuvnesh is one of the few who have their priorities right.
Hope for the best
"I am not thinking about the senior team right now," he had said during the pre-match practice session. "I just want to keep working hard and hope for the best."
With Central still trailing by nine runs and the centurion having failed to take a single off the final deliveries of the day, all the good work might still come to nought.
Whatever be the outcome on Wednesday, there is no denying that Tuesday belonged not to Yuvi but to Bhuvi.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.