Chaos is a part of life in Meerut. There is an inherent machismo, bravado and in-your-face assertiveness. Yet, there are times when the chaos produces an icon who breaks stereotypes and stands out.
Discipline has been a recurring motif in the professional growth of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The lanky seamer, one of India’s biggest hopes going into the World Cup, is best known for his nagging line and disciplined length.
A visit to Victoria Park, where he honed those skills, makes it abundantly clear that it is not just a part of his game but his entire persona.
The aggression, they insist, is there all right; it’s just the outlet that is different.
“Wo hamesha se aisa hi tha (He has always been like this). Simple, sober, reed-thin and silent, you won’t ever realise his competitiveness.
“I was surprised when he said he wanted to be a fast bowler. But there is a stubbornness in him, a toughness that makes him special,” says Sanjay Rastogi, the man who first took Bhuvneshwar under his wing 15 years ago and continues to guide him.
It is a toughness that is only seen by those who happen to cross Bhuvneshwar – Bhuvi to everyone – on the field.
“Ek khundak hai usme, haar bardasht nahi hoti (He has one fault, he cannot take defeat). Even if we are playing football. But we have never seen his competitive spirit come out as sledging or abuses,” he adds.
“Bhuvi doesn’t abuse,” declares his best friend and senior through all age-group cricket over the years, Gaurav Goel. The 31-year-old reveals how his friend’s emotional stability has been the secret to his success.
“He is an introvert. He gets affected by things but never lets that affect his game. And that stability is a big reason for his success,” Goel says.
It is visible onfield as well. Barring M.S. Dhoni, Bhuvneshwar would clearly qualify as being the least expressive regardless of the situation.
He contrasts sharply with Praveen Kumar, the original swing bowler from these parts. Praveen, who fits the template of a typical Merathiya — brash, aggressive, outspoken — is one of Bhuvneshwar’s idols, the other is Glenn McGrath.
“Mohammad Kaif wanted a fast bowling all-rounder for UP and Bhuvi was on the radar after impressive performances at the under-19 level. I remember backing him for the role, and he never disappointed us,” Praveen is all praise.
With the World Cup looming, Bhuvneshwar’s form has been under scrutiny, but those who know him are not worried.
“Batsmen have become cautious against him and that has resulted in fewer wickets,” Rastogi says.
He continues to discuss his bowling with Rastogi. Others around him do their bit to provide the extra impetus, including preparing pitches as per his requirement with all kinds of balls to practice before every tour.
The unanimous verdict is that Bhuvi is as close to perfect as one can be.
“He doesn’t have any bad habits. He doesn’t brag about his achievements. He is always helpful. He treats everyone equally. Honestly, we are ourselves desperate to find a flaw in his character,” says a laughing Madhav Pratap Singh, Bhuvi’s junior and left-arm spinner who, interestingly, started off as a fast bowler inspired by him.
At Victoria Park, Praveen (PK) and Bhuvi are never spoken of separately. “They are the reason you see almost 100 kids here now. When we began 20 years ago, there were 15-20 kids. These boys cut grass, lifted soil, rolled, watered and prepared the pitch themselves,” Rastogi says.
Ten minutes from the ground, Bhuvi’s simple, two-storey house is devoid of any indication that it belongs to one of the city’s biggest stars.
The anonymity doesn’t stop people from visiting it. “Kids who have grown up around here and know us well refer to this as Bhuvi’s house now,” laughs his mother Indresh.
His father Kiran Pal Singh adds, “Every day at least three-four youngsters stop and point out Bhuvi ka ghar.”
It is a modest house by modern luxury standards. His own room is devoid of any signs of his cricketing achievements. His parents are yet to see him play in India colours at a stadium.
The son is not too different from the player. He loves his video games — says it helps his concentration levels — as much as a round of carrom with family.
The cabinet of trophies in his living room includes the BCCI Junior Player-of-the-Year 2007-08 and Player-of-the-Year 2013-14.
“We cannot be defensive, we can only survive with aggression. Bhuvi is an exception but also the best amalgamation of both worlds,” concludes Rastogi.