Cricket: How Jasprit Bumrah became a short-form expert
In a span of 18 months since the Australia tour of January 2016, Jasprit Bumrah has taken such a gigantic leap that he is now among the top five One Day International (ODI) and top two T20 bowlers in world cricket.
In March 2015, Mohammad Shami had leapfrogged 14 places to get to No.11 in the International Cricket Council (ICC) ranking while Bhuvaneshwar Kumar had jumped seven places to become No.7 in October 2014. In this backdrop, Bumrah leapt 27 places to fourth place after India’s 5-0 win against Sri Lanka.
“Jasprit has been our most effective short-format bowler in the last 18 months,” Virat Kohli said after Bumrah was judged man of the series in Sri Lanka last month.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) may be a favourite punching bag for a lot of critics for its supposedly “evil” influence on young Indian cricketers, but in Bumrah’s case, it has been a boon. From being picked up by former India coach John Wright (for Mumbai Indians) to learning the art of bowling in the last overs from Lasith Malinga, Bumrah has benefitted immensely.
Former New Zealand pacer Shane Bond’s association with the Mumbai Indians as bowling coach has helped him lately in evolving as a better bowler.
“He is calm, kind and a soft guy. He has his own share of injuries (like mine). Because of him I have started planning for every batsman in advance and at the same time, he also taught me the importance of patience,” said Bumrah in a video interview to What The Duck Season 2 on Viu India, an online media platform, in July.
Even if Bumrah had a poor series against England in January (three matches, five wickets at an economy rate of 7.86), Bond had no doubt regarding his selection for the Champions Trophy in England.
“I am never going to be tired of praising him even if I repeat myself. He is probably the best (in India) to bowl the pressure overs, because he has got exceptional skills and an amazing temperament,” says Bond over the phone from Christchurch before his departure to India with the New Zealand “A” team as bowling coach.
Bumrah has played just 22 ODIs but his average (20.87) is best for Indians (with at least 20 matches) and his economy rate (4.68 runs per over) is best among the current pacers from the country. In T20 matches, no Indian pacer who has played 10 or more matches has a better economy rate (6.70 after 25 matches) or average (18.33).
If Bumrah can continue the same form against Australia—he had one wicket for 20 runs in the first match at Chennai on Sunday—and New Zealand, he won’t be a surprise selection for the Test matches as well on tour of South Africa in January 2018.
“There is little doubt about him being a world-class white-ball bowler and I do think he will play Test cricket and can sustain success across all formats,” says Bond. “It’s not only about yorkers and slower balls any more. He can bowl a good length ball and get a nick off you as well, which is the biggest improvement in his bowling,” adds captain Kohli.
Neither Malinga (30 Tests) nor Bond (18 Tests) could play a lot of matches in cricket’s most demanding format. Back injury and overload of bowling caused significant damages to two of the bowlers Bumrah often looks up to. Is there the same danger for him if he starts playing in all formats?
“In last six months, his fitness level has improved tremendously. His accuracy has improved further and he bowls at the right length most of the time,” says Parthiv Patel, Gujarat’s skipper.
The 23-year-old pacer is aware that just having an unusual action is not going to take him too far. “Nowadays, with technology, people start to analyse and if you only have one or two tricks (in bowling), they will start to line you up. The things you do early on people don’t know but once they start studying videos and know what to plan for, they know what to expect. So you have to keep on evolving and according to situations you have to adapt,” said Bumrah at a press conference during the Sri Lanka tour.
Gujarat has never been a formidable domestic side but last season they won the Ranji Trophy for the first time. Since Patel’s Test debut in 2002, no cricketer from Gujarat has played a Test for India. With the rapid rise of Bumrah, it looks inevitable that Gujarat’s 15-year-wait for a new Test cricketer will end soon.
Vimal Kumar is the author of Sachin: Cricketer Of The Century and The Cricket Fanatic’s Essential Guide. He tweets @vimalwa.