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“He also wants to play some first-class games and get match-fit” – Mohammad Kaif on Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s return to India’s Test side

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As concerns over Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s fitness to play Test cricket remain, former India batsman Mohammad Kaif has opined that the swing bowler is taking his time to work on his frailties before vying for a spot in the Test side.

Bhuvneshwar has been on people’s lips ever since he was not picked for the UK tour, with his absence felt even more after India lost the World Test Championship (WTC) final to New Zealand in June. Kaif too echoed similar sentiments while adding he should get the confidence back by getting some first-class cricket under his belt.

“He is a class bowler, there is no doubt about that. He has got problems recently with injuries and all, but Bhuvneshwar Kumar in England with Indian team currently would have been a big asset. But right now, like you correctly said, he hasn’t played first-class matches much.

“So he should keep playing, if he finds time, maybe go play some county matches, definitely first-class games – Ranji he has to play. I think that’s what he’s planning too. That’s why probably when people say he’s not ready, is because he also wants to play some first-class games and get match-fit,” Kaif said in response to a question from IPL 2021.

Injuries have blighted Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s career of late, with him being forced to miss India’s tour of Australia due to a thigh injury he suffered during IPL 2020. He then came back to have a fantastic home series against England and in Sri Lanka last month – both, though, were limited-overs assignments.

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The 31-year-old’s omission from India’s Test set-up raised quite a few eyebrows, with some reports even suggesting that he does not want to play the longest format anymore. Bhuvneshwar was quick to rubbish all those claims.


Cricket is a skill-based game, fitness comes secondary: Former India batsman Mohammad Kaif

Players have to compulsorily pass the yo-yo test which mandates them to complete 2 km in 8 mins 30 secs, and 8 mins 15 secs for fast bowlers
Players have to compulsorily pass the yo-yo test which mandates them to complete 2 km in 8 mins 30 secs, and 8 mins 15 secs for fast bowlers

A common thread between India’s last two overseas tours of Australia and England is the spate of injuries. Virat Kohli has already seen three of his mates fly out of England, with opener Mayank Agarwal and seamer Shardul Thakur currently nursing a concussion and a hamstring injury respectively.

A plausible reason for this could be that not all players are able to cope with the fitness standards set in Indian cricket. Leg spinner Varun Chakravarthy is a classic case as the engineer-turned-cricketer suffered twin injuries, which many experts suggested was due to his body being different to someone who pursued cricket as a child.

Mohammad Kaif stated that while fitness does play a key part in cricket, it should not be at the top of everyone’s priority list. He added that not everybody needs to have similar fitness programs as the Indian captain since there are very few who play all three formats.

“Yeah yeah, 100 percent, every body is different. Cricket, to me, is probably one of the fittest [sports] going around. But I would say cricket is mainly a skill-based game. Fitness plays a major role, yes, but if you don’t get runs or pick wickets, then what will you do with fitness? Because so much cricket is being played now, if you are Kohli, then you are playing all the formats.

“So Kohli probably is smarter because he understood, ‘If I have to cope at the highest level and score runs and perform, my fitness has to play a major role’. So he was very smart because he’s playing all the formats, others probably not,” Kaif elaborated during a virtual media interaction arranged by Sony on the eve of the second Test against England.

India came closer than the hosts to winning the first Test in Nottingham last week. Both sides are likely to make a few changes to their line-up – some forced ones, others to plug certain holes. While India have momentum on their side, England have undergone the statutory fine-tuning to make for a fascinating contest at Lord’s starting tomorrow.


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