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In his destructive spell, Bumrah reminds everyone of his brilliance

The underlying point herein is that the 25-year-old Bumrah, even at this ripe age for a fast bowler, is clearly aware what the game currently demands.

Aug 26, 2019, 11.46 PM IST
By Chetan Narula

Recently, in an interview with ET Sport, Vivian Richards had spoken about his preference to face Dennis Lillee at his ferocious prime rather than the current, still-learning avatar of Jasprit Bumrah. It sounded like heady praise, as is often the wont of commentators.

The devil, though, is in detail. Viv spoke about Bumrah’s unorthodox action as his main threat, and how it unsettles the facing batsmen. “I would use Bumrah’s rhythm to play my strokes, but with his action, you cannot really tell what he is going to bowl. (As batsman) It puts me at a disadvantage,” implied one of the greatest attacking batsmen world cricket has ever seen. That Bumrah has a tremendous element of surprise is not a secret.

Remember how he stunned Shaun Marsh in Melbourne with a slow, looping yorker? If opposition teams weren’t wary of his ‘ability to surprise’ before that moment, they certainly are now. The key for batsmen is in preparation, of course, and spending those extra hours studying footage of how he brings those variations in to play. From now on, team analysts will perhaps be busier than normal whenever the next opponent is India — read Bumrah.

Alternatively, it also presents a challenge to the young pacer. Through his nascent career, he has steadfastly maintained the practice of adaptation and redeveloping his game. He spoke about it in Sri Lanka (2017), in South Africa (2018) after an excellent Test debut, in England (2018) after picking his maiden five-wicket haul in Tests and in Australia (2018) after starring in India’s maiden Test series win.

The underlying point herein is that the 25-year-old Bumrah, even at this ripe age for a fast bowler, is clearly aware what the game currently demands. Call it the experience of playing across different formats day in and day out, or learning from the likes of India’s bowling coach Bharat Arun (since his NCA days), Lasith Malinga and Shane Bond (at Mumbai Indians), or whomever else he interacts with.

From the wilderness of domestic cricket, to the stardom of Indian Premier League, and then to the dizzying heights of international cricket, Bumrah has proven a lot of people wrong. Imagine bowling with that action in gully cricket – undoubtedly he was ridiculed at some stage.

The credit of not changing anything about him or his action goes to Arun, but understanding the need of physical strength to back it up at the highest level is all Bumrah. Absorbing the ability to bowl yorkers at will and firing away with pace at Mumbai Indians is all Bumrah. Proving eminent cricketerturned-commentators (looking at Michael Holding, who foremost doubted his Test credentials in South Africa) wrong is all him too.

It was summed up by 49 wickets in his first calendar year of Test cricket — currently stands at 55 in 11 matches with five-wicket hauls in South Africa, England, Australia and West Indies. Which other Indian bowler can boast of a similar record? Which other bowler the world over? As if, it wasn’t already proven that Bumrah is unique.

In the current era of Test cricket, wherein batsmen all over are forgetting the art of forging long partnerships, they are experiencing further threat from him. Bumrah – with his phenomenal spell of 5 for 7 in the second innings against West Indies at Antigua – has made a foray into ‘the unplayable zone’. A heady mix of outswingers and inswingers bamboozled the Windies’ batsmen – the stumps trembling in fear. Thankfully for other batsmen across the world, replays of Ben Stokes’ Ashes exploits were the only recourse to this terrorising spell.

Talking about Stokes, Bumrah’s spell at Nottingham last English summer comes to mind. He didn’t get the mercurial all-rounder, but accounted for seven wickets in that Test, including 5 for 85 in the second innings. Joe Root’s was the key dismissal — he batted resolutely, only to edge a wide delivery from Bumrah. Till then, the English skipper had played inside the line, covering for the sharp in-swingers. This one, holding its line even if not going away, snapped his resistance.

Sunday’s masterful display, then, echoes on from Trent Bridge. Thus far, Bumrah’s main threat was from getting bounce off a hard surface and causing discomfort to the batsmen as he angled the ball across (into righthanders and across left-handers). Now he has found another angle, of taking the ball away from right-handers, to further swells his armoury.

Four of his five wickets in Antigua were outswingers. The fifth, a fuller delivery, crashed into the stumps, almost a yorker – was that delivery moving away too? Jason Holder didn’t know, and batsmen watching across the world were perhaps happy they weren’t facing. How long, though, will they avoid the unplayable Bumrah? To borrow from Thanos, he is ‘inevitable’.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of
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