ROHIT SANKAR | 6 SEPTEMBER, 2019
The Facts about Jasprit Bumrah, Kohli’s Wingman and India’s Toast
Bumrah’s career progress is breathtaking
His career is only 12 Tests old, but Jasprit Bumrah is already the most watched fast bowler in the world right now. With five-wicket hauls in each country he has played a Test in, Bumrah has been a revelation for Virat Kohli’s team and their quest for overseas wins.
Indian captains have long struggled to eke out big wins away from home, and as Kohli becomes the team’s most successful Test captain with 28 wins, he has his trusted banker Bumrah to thank for it.
Though Bumrah was identified as a limited-overs bowler, the Indian selectors and management had the chutzpah to test him in the first Test in South Africa early last year. There was promise, but few could have imagined that Bumrah would soon shape himself into a fantastic Test bowler, well in control of his variations and bringing it down on the same spot over and over.
He had a five-wicket haul before he left the country, heading straight to England to pick up another five-for in the first Test at Nottingham. When he missed out on play, there was a visibly less threatening Indian attack on show.
Bear in mind that he’d played fewer than 10 Tests at the time. In Australia, Bumrah went on to top the charts with a stunning 21 wickets. As India scripted history Down Under, Bumrah’s bright shadow was clearly cast over the trophy.
Then in the West Indies it all blended into singularly magnificent form, and at one point the maturing seamer had 10 wickets in 14 overs across two Tests.
What’s evident about Bumrah is that he trains hard. Really hard. His natural angle is into the right hander and he seams the ball further back into them, or straightens it effectively to catch the edge.
But in England, one delivery in particular stood out. He had the left-hander Keaton Jennings stunned when he swung the ball the other way around. The cricketing world dismissed it as a one-off, however, until Bumrah arrived in Antigua to simply wreck the Windies with his inswingers to the right-handers.
There are a lot of international bowlers who can swing the ball either way. James Anderson is a standout in this regard. Vernon Philander also gets the new cherry to swing and seam either way. But at Bumrah’s pace that is a rarity. Think Trent Boult, Dale Steyn and Mitchell Starc. They all bowl at pace and swing the ball one way, yet remain potent world-class bowlers. Now think of Bumrah, who can consistently clock 140-plus kmph and still swing the ball either way.
Yes, the Windies’ batting is fragile. But they couldn’t be faulted for succumbing to a Bumrah who was in complete control of his game. He ended the Antigua Test with a 5 for 7. At Sabina Park, he ran through them with a mesmerising hattrick, the third by an Indian in Tests.
Yet, unlike most modern-day pacers who celebrate with fire and anger, Bumrah shyly celebrated with his mates and walked back calmly to his mark.
In 12 Tests, Bumrah has 62 wickets at 19.24. To put things in perspective, after their first 12 Tests Wasim Akram and Glenn McGrath had 40 wickets apiece, Malcolm Marshall had 34, Allan Donald had 56 and Courtney Walsh had 41 wickets.
Bumrah’s career progress is breathtaking. After his first Test he stood 85th in the ICC rankings. He was sharp and versatile and quickly became Kohli’s chief weapon, constantly evolving and honing his skills and repertoire. By the end of the series against South Africa, Bumrah was up to 42 in the ICC rankings, an incredible pace.
In England, he played only three Tests due to injury but made a lasting impression, taking 14 wickets in three Tests at 25.92. He moved up to the 38th rank.
In Australia he was back to his sharpest. His 21-wicket series haul included some extraordinary spells like at Melbourne when he grabbed a career-best 6 for 33. He averaged 17 and struck at a rate of 44.9. By series’ end, where he played all four Tests, Bumrah had gone up to the 16th rank.
He came to the West Indies as the most watched seamer - recently earning high praise from the likes of Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose - and climbed to number 3 in the ICC rankings with spells of 5/7 at Antigua and 6/27 at Sabina Park.
Since 2018, Bumrah is the third highest wicket-taker in Tests among pacers. Only Kagiso Rabada and Pat Cummins have more wickets than him but they have also played more Tests.
In no time at all he has gone from being a fringe bowler to leading India’s strike force in Tests. The catalyst behind India’s series wins in Australia and the West Indies, Bumrah is developing into an unrestrained champion who can run through batting lineups at will.
He is aided by a passionate skipper who will go to lengths to extend maximum support to his pace bowlers.
The makings of a world-class genius are everywhere writ, and Jasprit Bumrah is certainly living up to the hype so far.