Wheel Turns Full Circle For Bumrah And Mumbai
On the pivot of this tectonic shift stood India's best death bowler, Jasprit Bumrah
Players often take refuge in the adage that the game is a great leveller. It could not have been truer for the Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede stadium on May 16th. Their campaign had started with a jolt as they lost a spine-chiller to Chennai Super Kings (CSK) due to shoddy death bowling. Its cascading effect was felt half-way into the tournament as Mumbai continued to squander more opportunities, under eerily similar circumstances. Against CSK, Mumbai had conceded 50 in the last three overs. Against Rajasthan Royals, they leaked 43.
So it is ironic that in their last home game, the death bowlers should bowl out of their skins to win a match they had no right to finish on top. Perhaps, this win over Kings XI Punjab, which has helped them cling on to the cliff-edge, is symptomatic of their fortunes coming a full-circle. On the pivot of this tectonic shift, stood India's best death bowler, Jasprit Bumrah. As he had when it all began, in the game against CSK.
Against a rampaging Bravo, nobody stood a chance in the season opener, let alone an attack that consistently missed its lengths. It was a blitzkrieg in the truest sense of the word - swift and violent military offensive with intensive aerial bombardment - as deliveries that made contact with Bravo's bat were deposited to different parts of the Wankhede stands. Where Mumbai self-destructed then was by feeding Bravo full-tosses on his legs. Some of those were bowled by Bumrah from around the wicket, a tactic untested hitherto. It illustrated the bankruptcy of thought, quite contrary to what was on view against KXIP. By his own post-match admission, clarity of thought was his greatest weapon against a well-set KL Rahul here.
"Clarity is very important when you bowl at the death, otherwise there'll be doubt. If I'm clear it's easy to execute. I was backing myself. I was clear," he said after the match.
How critical Bumrah is to Mumbai is a fact that cannot be overstated. Rohit Sharma alluded to the same after the match, explaining that while Bumrah may not have a lot of wickets to show for his efforts, he has done the donkey work for Mumbai all season. A case in point was how he parched the KXIP batsmen for boundaries in their earlier encounter on the small Indore ground. His spell of one for 19 in four overs, that included 11 dot balls, was gold dust given how the rest of the attack was being shredded to pieces.
Unlike when he plays for India and shares the burden of bowling the toughest overs with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, in the MI outfit, Bumrah has very little support, especially in the death. Add to that the fact that oppositions don't leave the smallest speck of dust to chance, and are fully aware of Mumbai's dependence on Bumrah.
The aforesaid can be exemplified best by the approach of KL Rahul, Aaron Finch and earlier, even Chris Gayle, to negate Bumrah's impact on what was turning out to be a clinical run-chase. They were aware that Mitchell McClenaghan has a penchant for blowing hot and cold. That Hardik Pandya, at his amiable pace, could be milked for runs on a belter of a pitch. And that the spinners would be rendered significantly impoverished with a dew soaked ball.
Yet, their well laid out plans were eventually thwarted by Bumrah's sense of clarity.
Indubitably, Rahul's wicket was the game-changer. It came immediately after the orange-cap holder scooped two of Ben Cutting's slower-balls over third-man with the same assurance that he nails his signature cover-drive. It meant that the margin of error, even for a bowler of Bumrah's calibre, was narrower than a needle's eye. He deceived Rahul (94) with a slower-ball that appeared to be in the slot but dipped at the point of contact as an audacious after-thought. Rahul's departure meant that McClenaghan had a sizable 16 to defend against a misfiring middle-order.
In an ideal world, Rohit would have wanted to bowl Bumrah the 18th and 20th, especially given Mumbai's poor last over record. He could have done that if Mumbai had more runs to play with, a luxury they have generally missed in the tournament, invariably falling 10-15 runs short with the bat, as Rohit admitted post-match. But a day that witnessed the wheel turn a full-circle for Bumrah and Mumbai, as they eked out a win worthy of a champion side, is hardly one for pedantic fault-finding.