Kushal Bhurtel backed his strength and rectified his flaws to script beginning of a Twenty20 International career that has amused and enthralled everyone. When Nepal launched their Tri-Nation Twenty20 International Series campaign at home, hardly had anyone expected him to become world’s only batsman to hit three consecutive half centuries on debut.
The opener smashed 278 runs in five innings including four fifty-plus scores to torment Netherlands and Malaysia during the April, 2021 event. Three of his half centuries came against the Dutch side which never imagined a guy against whom they never played before was going to terrorise the bowlers with so much grit.
In his last domestic season, the right-handed batsman opened for Nepal Police Club and made 179 runs from 10 innings. Once a middle order batsman, the decision to let him open the innings in domestic tournaments this year has bore fruit for the departmental giants, and ultimately the senior national team.
A mix bag in domestic tournaments
Kushal offers a visual treat with an exhibition of strokes on both sides of the ground. He, generally, is an aggressor longing to hit the ball hard and far. He averages 24.27 in a domestic national tournament since 2019 with 437 runs from 19 innings.
In domestic tournaments since 2019, he scored 32.62 percent of his runs in the mid-wicket region. He brought his slog-sweep in play whenever the spinners bowled around middle and leg against him. He has loved to shuffle and play the fuller length ball in the mid-wicket against the pacers.
Allow him to free his arms, Kushal will work the ball into cover and point region, be it pacers or the spinners. His 14.53% and 12.41 % of runs have come from those two areas.
The right hander is equally aggressive against the pacers and spinners. In domestic 50-over format since 2019, he stroke the ball at the rate of 86.08 and 85.07 against the pacers and the spinners respectively. The numbers are excellent considering the majority of low scoring matches in Nepal’s domestic circle.
Despite having a good strike rate against spinners, the biggest problem Kushal has is his average against the slow-bowlers. He has returned the poor average of 14.25 against the spinners, pretty low compard to 53.2 against fast bowlers, all since 2019.
Although, Kushal faced 60.58 percentages of delivery from the pace bowlers, his dismissal percentage against the spinners is recorded at 66.66. A total of 12 out of 18 times, he fell prey to spinners in the domestic tournaments.
More than number, the major concern for Kushal has been his failure to cope against slow bowlers. Sometimes your strong zone is your weak point, the saying partially applies to him. As he scored the majority of runs in the mid-wicket region against the ball pitching in the middle and leg, he got dismissed while attempting to play towards the same region against the same line and length.
The problem is all about his shot selection. It is safer to sweep the ball turning in towards the leg-stump or outside the leg-stump, which reduces the risk of being trapped leg before even if the batsman misses the ball.
An ordinary look is enough. Kushal has been dismissed after bending down to play slog-sweep against the ball turning away from him when the ball is pitched on the middle-stump, mostly from good length area.
Kushal’s run percentage in the long-on and long-off areas is only recorded as 4.96 and 7.08% respectively. The numbers will go even lower if it concerns spinners. This exposes his inability to play down the ground and with a straight bat against the spinners.
What he did right in the Tri-Nation Series?
The average against the spinners was a matter of concern for the right-handed opening batsman. Although five-match series will not be enough to draw a conclusion, he now averages 127 in Twenty20 Internationals against the spinners.
He only got dismissed once against the slower bowlers in the series, scoring 127 runs against them in the process. The dismissal was again against the ball turning away from him, caught following a leading edge in an attempt to play down the ground.
As he didn’t bend down to play slog-sweep or sweep against ball turning away from him, his runs percentage in areas between mid-off to mid-on took a rise. He aggregated 25.16 percentage of runs in the two regions. He didn’t harm his strength to rectify the weakness, 21.22 percentage of runs in the mid-wicket region is its strong evidence.
Kushal stroked the ball at the rate of 155.67 against the pacers. His strike against the spinners dipped down to 125.74 but made sure he doesn’t fall victim to them more than once.
The Rupandehi-born batsman smashed at the strike rate of 255.55 against the full-length deliveries coming off from the spinners.
The number goes down to 80.64 against the ball in the good-length area followed by 133.33 against the short balls.The pacers got hit at the strike rate of 197.14 while pitching full against Kushal. His strike rate in good length and short of length is recorded at 128.88 and 141.17 respectively.
While technique is one essential element in cricket, temperament often is what differentiates a good player from a great one. Kushal, with the glimpse of such temperament to redress his flaws, is expected to make his name for Nepal in long run.
His pleasant personality and his happy and innately smiling avatar has a very focused and determined individual behind them. With a plethora of shots, Kushal has the potential to make his name globally. He just needs to be given ample of opportunities to play.