Bhuvneshwar Kumar is not in the Indian team for his batting skills. He is one of the key medium-pacers in the Indian attack, whose job is to restrict the opposition to manageable scores. He did that in the second One-day International with Sri Lanka in Pallekele on Thursday and could be excused if he put his feet up as the Indian openers set about whittling down the mediocre target. Little did Bhuvi know that he would not only have to bat, but also score a half-century and script a crucial 100-run stand with Mahendra Singh Dhoni to rescue a win for India.
The medium-pacer says that former captain Dhoni advised him to build his knock like he does in Test matches.
Bhuvneshwar scored 53 not out and raised a 100-run stand with Dhoni for the eighth wicket to guide India to a three-wicket win over the hosts on Thursday night.
"When I went in to bat, MS told me to play my natural game like I play in Test cricket and don't take any pressure as we had a lot of overs at that time. We knew if we played them out we would chase easily," Bhuvneshwar said at the post match press conference.
"I knew there is nothing to lose in this situation as we were already seven down. I was just thinking that I can play and that I have to support MS as much as I can. And that's what I tried to do," he said.
Lankan off-spinner Akila Dananjaya took six for 54, his maiden ODI five-wicket haul, to trigger Indian middle order collapse after an aggressive start from Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.
"It was a little surprising because we had a very good opening partnership. Then 3-4 wickets fell quickly so it was a bit of a panic situation for us. There was no message as such from the dressing room or MS Dhoni.
"The only thing was they wanted me to play as long as possible. I also wanted to do the same thing because that was the only chance to win if I could play all those 47 overs. That was my plan," Bhuvneshwar said.
Asked how he countered Dananjaya, who was on fire, Bhuvneshwar said, "I had a plan against him."
"He is an off-spinner but he was also bowling leg spinners and googlies so it was a surprise for us. I just wanted to play him for the wrong one or the googlies, which he was bringing in to me. And whatever was going away from me I wasn't really worried about that.
"Whatever wickets he took that was on the googly, the incoming delivery, so my plan was to counter his incoming deliveries. Initially it was a bit difficult to read him from the hand but later on when I played him for 10-15 balls I could read his variations," he explained.
Bhuvi scored his maiden half-century in ODIs, a first for an Indian batsman at No.9 after Praveen Kumar achieved the feat against Australia in 2009. He credited assistant coach Sanjay Bangar for this good run.
"I never thought in my dreams that I would score fifty in one-dayers. Not fifty but match winning knock because one-day is a kind of format which doesn't suit my batting as I am not the kind of batsman who can hit big sixes.
"But that kind of situation was perfect for me because it was totally a Test match situation. Thanks to Sanjay Bangar, he was working really hard on me during the Test series.
"Whenever I go into the nets Bangar helps me to counter those things, like I have to go through the last session of a Test. So it was same kind of situation and that was a bit familiar for me," he signed off.
(With PTI inputs)