After India’s win in the third ODI against New Zealand at Kanpur, Sanjay Manjrekar told Jasprit Bumrah that Indian fans know they have won the match if the team has 15 or 16 runs to defend in the last over and Bumrah has the ball in his hand. Bumrah played down the compliment by saying he doesn’t focus on those things.
It’s not just Indian fans, but batsmen all over the world know that Bumrah is the most difficult bowler to put away in the death overs. For a new man coming in, it is even more difficult to get used to his action and variations. Set batsmen know they have to take the risk to score off him and often end up throwing their wickets.
Rohit Sharma in his post-match conference tirelessly praised both Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, calling them the best death bowlers in the world. The same was acknowledged by Australian captain, Steve Smith when his team was in India last month. One doesn’t normally associate great death bowling with India. It has been a perennial problem for the team in the past. It’s no wonder then that fans and teammates can’t hide their glee in acknowledging the fact that we are the best in the world in a trade we have historically lagged behind. All thanks to IPL, which read Indian cricket’s wishlist and gift-wrapped a 23-year-old Bumrah to answer an age-old SOS call.
To label Bumrah as just a death bowler though will be a disservice to the way he has come up as a bowler at the international level. Bumrah’s greatest strength with the ball is his accuracy at any point of the innings. At Kanpur, even as Bhuvneshwar was getting smashed in his first spell, Bumrah managed to keep it tight at the other end with the new ball. You can rely on the new and improved Bumrah 2.0 to hit that channel outside off with the new ball right from the word go.
Bumrah bowls what cricketers call a heavy ball. At his pace, when he hits a length, he hits it hard and gets awkward bounce and movement off any surface. Add to that a deceptive bouncer that makes Bumrah an awkward customer to deal with at any stage of the innings. Unrelenting accuracy and and hard-to-pick variations make Bumrah both a restricting and wicket-taking option at any stage.
Captains know Bumrah is their trump card while defending a total in a close chase. Virat Kohli wasn’t at his best with the bowling changes at Kanpur, giving perhaps a few too many overs to Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav but he used Bumrah brilliantly. Bumrah was used in four spells of three, one, three and three overs. Every time he was called upon, India’s hopes were pinned on him, and every time he delivered.
Bumrah’s first wicket was a reward for some nice accurate bowling with the new ball when Martin Guptill skied one in an attempt to go over the top. While spinners were finding it hard to grip the ball, Bumrah slows off cutters were gripping and bouncing on the pitch awkwardly and that extra bounce claimed Ross Taylor in the forty-first over to break the Tom Latham-Ross Taylor partnership that stole the game from India in the first ODI.
The Latham run-out will not be credited to Bumrah on the scorebook but it was a result of sustained pressure built by bowling pinpoint accurate yorkers to Colin de Grandhomme, who was struggling to put bat on bowl and forced Latham to attempt a suicidal run. Bumrah’s final wicket came courtesy a low full toss in the final over. You may argue that Bumrah missed the yorker on that occasion and got lucky with the wicket, but when you have protection on the leg side, a low full toss is perhaps the best option for a fast bowler.
The most remarkable thing about Bumrah’s performance on Sunday night was how dew wasn’t a factor when he had the ball in his hands. While others struggled to grip the ball, Bumrah was nailing his yorkers and slower balls even with the new ball. Having honed his skills in IPL, where dew is a factor in almost every game, Bumrah knows how to make the ball talk even when it’s trying to slip away from his hands.
Rohit may have won the Man of the Match award for his blistering hundred but you can bet that Bumrah would have got the most pats on his back in the dressing room for delivering under pressure for his team. It’s a pity that batsmen generally end up getting these matches on good pitches even when a bowler puts in a stellar performance. There is a chance that Rohit’s runs could have been scored by someone else even if he had got out a bit earlier but no one could have done the job that Bumrah did for the team under pressure.
With Bumrah’s confidence riding sky high, there could be no better time to elevate him to the rigours of Test cricket. Bumrah has expressed his desire to represent the team at the Test level in the past and deserves the rewards for turning in consistent performances for the team in limited-over formats.
We have seen batsmen getting making it to the Test team based on ODI performances and there should be no reason to label a bowler white-ball specialist without trying him with the red ball. Bumrah already has an impressive record in Ranji Trophy to prove his mettle as a red-ball bowler, and given his penchant for picking up and learning new skills in no time, one can be sure Bumrah will raise his game to the next level if he gets a chance to play for India at the Test level.
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