17 March 2018 04:12 PM



Jasprit Bumrah’s Red Ball Prowess

Bumrah has justified his selection completely

Prior to this tour of South Africa, Jasprit Bumrah had a reputation of being a limited-overs specialist. Primarily, his length, to be specific his ability to bowl lethal yorkers with the white ball, that too with his unorthodox slingy action, made him an automatic choice for the captain in the death overs. However, this ongoing Test series has shown that on slightly helpful conditions, the 24-year old is more than handy with the red ball, even at the highest level.

Since making his Test debut on that greenish wicket at Newlands, Bumrah has been India’s highest wicket-taker in the series so far with 12 scalps in five completed innings. In Newlands as well as here at the Wanderers, on pitches, which have favoured fast bowling, he has been accurate, hit the right length on most occasions and rewarded with important breakthroughs.

His critics might argue, on green pitches any decent and accurate fast bowler can trouble the batsmen at the international level. Bumrah was picked to do that job only. However, at Centurion, where there wasn’t the same kind of assistance from the surface, he showed the maturity to bowl in the right areas and found ways to get batsmen out. For me, that has been the most notable aspect of his performance of this tour so far.

Time and again Virat Kohli had given him the new ball ahead of senior pros like Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami, and Bumrah did not disappoint his skipper. It was his discipline and hard work which yielded him the glory.

Interestingly, when Bumrah was selected for this tour, a lot of eyebrows were raised as he hadn't played any First-Class cricket in a year. Naturally, questions were raised in his longer format capabilities, especially whether he would be trusted with long spells or not.

Well, as we head towards the end of the series, one must say, Bumrah has justified his selection completely. After Bhuvneshwar Kumar, he has been the other India seamer who has troubled the Protea batsmen on a consistent basis. Here, unlike the spells in limited-overs’ formats, he has not tried a lot of stuff within a short span of time. Instead, Bumrah has aimed to force a mistake from the batsmen, by setting them up. And of course, he showed a lot of patience.

Following an ordinary Day 1 in Cape Town to start of his Test career, now Bumrah has a five-for to his name — it seems in past twenty-one days, his career has gone through a complete transformation. In fact, for me, he has been the surprise package of the series.

So, how did he prepare for this assignment in South Africa? Did he talk to any of his seniors?

"Not right now, but more in general, elsewhere, or maybe in the IPL, I have spoken to senior bowlers," Bumrah said on Thursday in the post-day presser. "That I always try to do wherever I play, because senior bowlers always have a lot of experience to share. I try to ask what has worked for them in Test cricket. So, learning from them has always been the thing I try to do. All of the senior bowlers have given me this advice to keep things simple and not over-complicate stuff."

In the press meet right after his 5 for 54 on Thursday, there was a question regarding his journey from being a limited-overs’ specialist to a tried and tested Test bowler. For Bumrah, it has always been the matter of asking the question to batsmen, relentlessly.

“I don’t think about whether I am good here or over there, I just focus wherever I am going, what preparation I am doing and don’t focus on what the opinions are. It’s very good that people have opinions, but my basic aim was that wherever I go I focus in the present moment. This is red ball cricket right now, so what works in red ball cricket and try to ask questions to all successful bowlers. What has worked for them. So, learning from them has always been the thing I try to do,” he said.

Now, in the fourth innings of the Wanderers Test, India will be eying one final effort from him. Well, if he can maintain his consistency and bowl his team to a victory, it will indeed be the cherry on top of the cake for this Ahmedabad boy.