"There are so many hundreds of people inside the Chinnaswamy Stadium, but right now Jasprit Bumrah must be feeling lonely": Harsha Bhogle, on-air during the unforgettable India vs Bangladesh match in Bengaluru on Wednesday.
Of the many remarkable stories that emerge from Indian cricket, Jasprit Bumrah's must be right up there with the best. If not for an untimely injury to Mohammad Shami during India's recent trip Down Under, Bumrah probably wouldn't have been donning the India blue in the World T20 right now. His sudden rise in the ranks has been the hallmark of India's excellent recent form in the shortest format.
'Find of the season,' beamed MS Dhoni after the Australia series where Bumrah burst on to the scene and surprised everyone with his pace, nip and uncanny ability to get yorkers right on the money. The youngster must have been delighted to hear his captain shower such high praise on him.
But in Bengaluru against Bangladesh, one cannot begin to imagine what must have been going through Bumrah's mind after the first few overs of the second innings.
The general feeling at the break was India were short by 15-20 runs to make sure the match finished in their favour. A situation where conceding even one unnecessary run could prove costly.
First ball of the innings, Tamim Iqbal -- who will go on to become a recurring character in the narrative surrounding Bumrah's story on the night -- flicked a ball on his pads straight to fine leg where Bumrah was standing a good 5-6 feet inside the boundary rope. He bent down late, took his eyes off the ball, let it bounce off his body and past the boundary line.
Immediately, Bumrah came on to bowl the second over of the innings. He didn't give away much in his now-typical style. Just three runs off it. Maybe that misfield did not affect him much.
Fifth over, it was Ravinchandran Ashwin with the ball and India's wrecker-in-chief on that fateful World Cup day in 2007, Tamim, with a top-edged sweep. The ball lobbed up in the air, Bumrah lined up underneath, the players were on the verge of breaking out in celebrations, and then he put it down! Ashwin couldn't believe it. Ashish Nehra offered a comforting little hand gesture. Suresh Raina ran up to pat him on the back and let him know it is alright. All Bumrah could manage was a sheepish grin -- the grin which could very well be translated to 'can the ground open up beneath me and take me in.'
But that was not the rock bottom for him. Yet.
He was given the ball to bowl the next over and found Tamim again. He started with a short ball, Tamim cut it for four past point. He bowled a length ball, Tamim stepped down and smacked him over long on. He got a yorker horribly wrong with Dhoni standing up to the stumps, Tamim edged it to third man for four. He bowled a decent full-length ball but Tamim still squeezed it mid-off.
Sixteen runs from that over. Insult, meet injury.
Bumrah was living through a horrible nightmare. He perhaps half-expected to be woken up in his hotel bed, heaving a sigh of relief. But no, this was almost a do-or-die match in World T20 in front of a packed house that fell into pin-drop silence.
Then came the redemption.
He was handed the ball by Dhoni to bowl the 17th and 19th overs, when millions of arm-chair experts, including yours truly, were clamouring for Yuvraj Singh to bowl an over or two. The poor kid has been scarred enough for one day already, I told myself.
But the 22-year-old stepped up and how!
Off his next 12 balls, Bumrah got the yorker right 12 times (well, almost) to concede just 13 runs. The 19th over, especially, was a thing of beauty. With 17 needed from 12, Bumrah restricted Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur to just six runs. So often in these tight chases, the 19th over is perhaps more crucial than the last over itself. It sets up the match one way or the other. Against Bangladesh, Bumrah set them up for 11 runs from the last over, and they failed to overcome it. Bumrah passed the biggest test in his as yet blossoming career. The sight of an Indian fast bowler landing yorkers at will would please the fans no end.
The beauty of the longest format of the game is the possibility of seeing multiple comebacks within a match. One day, you might be asked to follow-on against one of the greatest teams in the world who are on a world-record run for consecutive matches. The next day you start scripting one of the greatest escape acts in the games history.
You might start the Test match with three wickets off the first three balls on the first morning but you might end up losing the match anyway. You might have been set a target of 414 on the fast, bouncy Perth pitch by Australia and when there seems to be very little hope of saving the match, you end up winning it with a record chase. The longest format lends itself to such mind-boggling comebacks within a single match.
The shortest format does not. With events unfolding at breakneck speed, there are ebbs and flows that teams go through, but for one individual to completely turnaround his fortunes in so small a window of time is a rarity.
But that's exactly what Bumrah did for India against Bangladesh. You could have forgiven him for having one bad match, where nothing went his way. But the youngster showed remarkable character -- I cannot stress on that word enough -- to bounce back from that horror start.
"These are the kind of matches that youngsters learn the most from," Dhoni said after the match.
Within a space of 20 overs, Bumrah learned enough about handling pressure than he could ever have possibly imagined.