Veteran Nehra continues to dazzle

Pacer's mentorship augurs well for Bumrah

Veteran Nehra continues to dazzle

Death bowling has never been an Indian forte. In its rich history, the existance of such bowlers is rather small. Yet, in the most unforgiving version of cricket for the bowlers, India have discovered an unlikely duo. Ashish Nehra, the revenant, and Jaspit Bumrah, the young yorker specialist, have combined beautifully to plug the runs in the death overs.

Nehra, a performer ravaged by injuries, revived himself with T20. At 37, his guile with the ball is still intact. In the past, the left-arm seamer had regularly been India's go-to man at the death overs.  His absence due to injuries after the high of the 2011 World Cup triumph led many to predict the end of his career. However, he bounced back with a successful stint with Chennai Super Kings in 2015 IPL. In 2016, he was India’s best bowler in T20 and a revelation in the World T20. Nehra has always been effective with the new ball, and possessed a rare ability to make the ball whiz past a batsman on any surface. He perfected the art of death bowling later.

On Sunday, India had to defend a small total with dew around. Nehra got the initial breakthrough, before returning in the 17th over, to break the deadlock. Bumrah then delivered a stunning last over, dismissing Joe Root and Jos Buttler, with his range of slower deliveries, to power India to five-run victory. Nehra was a busy cricketer on field, advising Bumrah, and actively involved in discussions with Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni as the contest hurtled towards a tense finish. Prod him about his partnership with Bumrah, and Nehra points out the difference in their roles and style.

“We are completely different bowlers. I am a left-arm fast bowler and he is a right-arm pace bowler. Everyone knows that Jasprit Bumrah always bowls well with the older ball. He may bowl a one-off over with the new ball whereas I at times bowl three overs up front because I know that the team wants me to strike early, especially while defending such a 130-140 type totals,” Nehra said.

“If you don’t do that, it’s highly unlikely that you can come back.”

“On the other hand, Bumrah’s speciality is bowling at death. Just like Lasith Malinga – he was an asset with the old ball. Bumrah has a slightly awkward action so a new batsman can’t really pick him easily. He has a good slower one and a yorker.”

Nehra also assured it was only a matter of time that Bumrah would improve with the new ball. “I have always seen in Indian cricket a bowler being tagged as a new-ball or only a death bowler. If you ask an opener to bat at No 6, he won’t really succeed. I am not saying Bumrah can’t bowl with the new ball, he will improve over time. In the 50-over games, he bowls at least four overs at the death. It’s never easy to bowl the 16th, 18th, 20th over in T20s, especially in such games.”

Nehra stressed on the importance of constantly working on the variations at death. “Bowlers are also exploring innovative field settings to succeed. If you are better at the start and not so good at the death, you can work harder and overcome it. If you constantly keep trying for days, weeks and months, you can at least improve marginally. And that marginal improvement can make a big difference. I am a firm believer in the process. If you can stick to the processes, you will definitely get results.”

The role of Nehra and Bumrah would be crucial as India gun for title in Bengaluru on Wednesday.

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