Indian captain Virat Kohli heaped praise on Bhuvneshwar Kumar, saying the pacer is a "massive contender" to be a regular in Tests. The 27-year-old impressed his skipper by picking eight wickets in the first Test between the hosts and Sri Lanka, which ended in a draw at Eden Gardens on Monday, November 20.
Bhuvneshwar, who finally seems to have found a balance between pace and swing, led India's reply with the ball after the hosts struggled on a green turf and overcast conditions in the first three days of the Test.
The right-arm pacer broke a 99-run stand between Lahiru Thirimanne and Angelo Mathews in the first innings to bring his side back into the game, after which he added three more to his tally.
On the final day, Bhuvneshwar was at it his best as he picked up four more to nearly lead his country to a win, which seemed impossible after major part of the first two days were washed out due to rain.
"His bowling has picked up pace, his ball is heavier than what it used to be. He grabs his chances every time he comes into the team. He's a massive contender to start in every Test for India, he'll be a vital part of our plans, especially overseas," Kohli said when asked about Bhuvneshwar during the post-match presentation ceremony in Kolkata on Monday.
Bhuvneshwar set to become all-format bowler
Despite finding a lot of success in ODI and T20I formats, Bhuvneshwar was never India's first-choice bowler in Tests. The Uttar Pradesh bowler, who favours swinging conditions, has been in and out of the Test team in the recent past. He has got his opportunity only when there was a need for the third pacer.
For instance, India's premier bowler in the longer format, Umesh Yadav has played 18 Tests since the start of 2016 while Bhuvneshwar has managed only seven.
Dry track? No worries!
However, on Monday, Bhuvneshwar came up with some superlative seam bowling on a brownish track, which was in stark contrast to the greenish wicket of the first two days. He pegged back Sri Lanka, who were chasing 231 after Lunch on the final day, with the wicket of Sadeera Samarawickrama as early as in the first over of the innings.
He kept asking questions to the Sri Lankan batsmen, who were taken aback by the intensity shown by the hosts in the final session of the Test, which ended early due to bad light.
With India working hard to tick all the boxes before they head to the challenging tour of South Africa in January 2018, Bhuvneshwar's performance in Kolkata Test is likely to give the team more cushion. With Hardik Pandya in the mix, Kohli's men can even have the luxury of four pacers in seamer-friendly conditions overseas.
Bhuvneshwar credits captain Kohli
Meanwhile, Bhuvneshwar credited Kohli for helping them approach the final two sessions of the Test with the right attitude. The pacer also conceded it was tough bowling on the final day, but a bit of reverse swing helped their cause.
"We believed we could win. Virat said 'imagine we're in this situation overseas. If we get two-three wickets early, it won't be easy for them'," Bhuvneshwar, who won the Man-of-the-Match award, said.
He added: "Frankly speaking, it was tougher to bowl in the second innings as the surface was a lot drier. But the ball was reversing, so that helped.
"When I made my debut, I was totally dependent on swing. International circuit tells you what you need to improve on. I worked hard on my fitness and that is paying off."
India-Sri Lanka second Test starts in Nagpur on November 24. Third and final Test is in Delhi from December 2.