Bumrah: Man for all seasons

Cricket

BOUNCY THREAT With his unconventional action, Jasprit Bumrah has proved to be hard customer to tackle. AFP

After India took an unassailable 2-1 lead against Australia in the Border-Gavaskar Test series late last year in Melbourne, Virat Kohli paid the ultimate compliment to Jasprit Bumrah, who had taken a nine-wicket haul for the match, stating that he wouldn’t want to face the paceman.

“The way he has matured in Test cricket and the areas he has bowled so quickly in his Test career, I think it’s a scary sign for the batsmen around the world in Test cricket. I mean if there is a pitch like Perth (where the second Test was played), I wouldn’t want to face Jasprit Bumrah, to be honest,” Kohli had said.

Bumrah, however, didn’t need the scorching Perth square in a Test match to prove Kohli’s point, ironically to the Indian skipper himself. All he needed was a batting track at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in an IPL game between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians. With Kohli and AB de Villiers seemingly in control of the chase, Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma brought back his trump card Bumrah into the attack for a breakthrough. The right-arm quick sent an awkward bouncer which Kohli only managed to miscue in an attempt to pull, resulting in a simple catch. Kohli later admitted he shouldn’t have tried to pull Bumrah whose progress as the world’s best fast bowler in a short period has been extraordinary.

Bumrah has developed into bowler for all seasons and situations, pulling out one unplayable delivery after another with effortless ease. Whether it’s the flat pitches in the sub-continent, bouncy tracks in Australia or the seaming surfaces in England, he has displayed remarkable ability to adapt to different conditions in no time. If his ability to read the conditions and understand batsmen’s weaker points is unmatched, his execution of plans for a particular batsman or a specific condition is impeccable.

In Australia, Kohli also made an insightful observation. “The way he bowls is so much more different to anyone. I think he realises that more than the batsmen (do) and that’s why he is so confident about his skills.” 

Whether he is operating with the shiny red ball or the hard white ball, whether he is opening the attack or bowling in the death, he is a captain’s delight and batsmen’s despair. He can be summoned to control the middle overs or called in to get breakthroughs and seldom does he disappoint.   

In India’s World Cup opener, he exposed the South African middle-order inside six overs with a hostile spell to which the Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock had few answers. Of course, the overcast conditions and the pitch were tough on the batsmen, but Bumrah’s success lay in his knowledge of dos and don’ts in given circumstances. With the ball doing something off the pitch and in the air, he didn’t have to try too hard to get on top of the batsmen.  

It’s this understanding that sets Bumrah apart from others. Indian pacers have generally got carried away by the bounce and carry, swing and seam on their first visits outside the sub-continent and have tried too hard without much success when all that was need was to put the ball in the right place. The astounding success of Bumrah on his maiden Test tours to South Africa and Australia are fine examples of his maturity.

“When on a wicket like this you get help – there was a little bit of a seam movement – then you can sometimes be tempted to try too many things,” Bumrah spoke of his bowling against South Africa. “At that time, you must realise that you don’t need to do too many things, just bowl Test-match type of bowling, be patient when you are getting help. That’s what we try to adopt; we are getting help from the wicket, so automatically the results will come.”

It’s not like Bumrah gets up on the match day and straightaway has batsmen quaking in their boots. There is a lot of work behind the scenes – from honing his skills for hours in the nets to working out in the gym, from maintaining a strict diet to taking adequate rest, watching different batsmen’s video footage to strategising with support staff. “I do all my sessions, be it bowling with the new ball, be it practising all my variations. I want to do all my preparations before coming into a game. If I have done everything, in the match it is all about execution and keeping a clear headspace, and that’s very important,” Bumrah said.

Kohli spoke of Bumrah’s work ethic and his attitude to keep the intensity level same in both the ‘nets’ and the match.“One thing you know with facing Jasprit is you have to play good cricketing shots against him and you have to back your technique against him,” Kohli said when asked about facing him in practice. “Because if you are hesitant a little bit, he senses that and he’s all over you. If he senses someone’s not enjoying the short ball in the nets, he will make sure that guy gets it in that session. So, what you see him bowling in the match, he bowls exactly like that to us in the nets. He doesn’t care who is standing in front of him.

“He will bounce people, he will try to get people bowled, he will york people with the new ball and that’s the reason for his consistency. He doesn’t change his game because he’s in the nets compared to the game. For a batsman, it’s beautiful to face a guy like that who bowls with match intensity and he’s looking to get you out, so when you play well against him you walk out with more confidence, so as I said he’s brilliant the way he’s progressed and hopefully he can keep going. He is very disciplined. He is working really hard at practice. He understands this is his time and he’s making the most of it,” he elaborated.

Indeed, Bumrah is having a ball. He is perhaps the most valuable player in this Indian team because quality fast bowlers are a rare breed in the country.

Reason enough for him to be handled with care.

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