Jasprit Bumrah is known to be a master at variations. A slinging action and penchant for bowling yorkers make him very difficult get away as an economy rate of 4.86 in ODIs would prove. In T20s too, he goes at under seven runs per over, which is a very acceptable economy rate. Bumrah's parsimony with the ball assumes greater significance when you consider that he has had to contend with shorter boundaries, bigger bats and the batsmen generally getting more expressive. It has made him the go-to bowler whenever his team has needed to stem the flow of runs, especially in the middle and death overs.
And now, according to an Indian Express report, the Gujarat quick is working on adding another weapon to his armour, and a very potent one at that - the knuckle ball. Often called a pacer's doosra, it is an import from baseball. The ball is held with the knuckles or fingertips on it and is released with the fingertips, while the wrist is kept stiff. This results in the zero rotations on the ball and an unpredictable motion. It floats, wobbles and dips on the batsman, making it very difficult to be hit.
Pace ace Zaheer Khan is known to have been the pioneer of the knuckle ball in Indian cricket, having picked up the art from South African Charl Langeveldt, who was also a master at death bowling during his time. Since then, various Indian bowlers have tried their hand at the art, with it getting widely used in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017, where Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma used it to great effect, and Australia's Andrew Tye remains one of its best exponents.
Bumrah, apart from a deadly yorker, also gets the advantage of his height and has a well-disguised bouncer. It is sometimes said that Bumrah overdoes the yorker. The addition of the knuckle ball will further increase Bumrah's effectiveness.
Bumrah made a massive impact in the T20 series against England earlier this year. India had been routed in the first match of the series at Kanpur, and simply had to win the second match at Nagpur to stay alive in the series. The match went down to the last over, with the visitors needing eight runs to win and two of their top batsmen Joe Root and Jos Buttler at the crease.
The onus of containing the Englishmen fell upon Bumrah. The young speedster came up with a sterling performance, varying his length and pace and getting rid of both Root and Buttler. He gave away only two runs from that last over, while taking two wickets, as England fell five runs short. In the series decider at Bangalore, Bumrah came up with another top notch showing, claiming 3/14 in 2.3 overs, as India registered a well-deserved victory.
Bumrah made news again in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017, when he defended 11 in a super over against the likes of Gujarat Lions' Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch. The Mumbai Indians pacer stifled the Kolkata Knight Riders in the second qualifier at Bangalore, conceding a mere seven runs in three overs, which is quite rare of in T20 cricket.
In the first ODI of the ongoing series against Sri Lanka, Bumrah went for 19 runs in his first spell in four overs, without taking a wicket. He, however, returned with a vengeance in the second spell, which saw him give away only three runs off 2.2 overs, and take the wickets of Thisara Perera and Vishwa Fernando.
Newer variations are often developed by bowlers to keep a step ahead of the competition. Thus you have an off-spinner like Ravichandran Ashwin developing a leg-spin delivery, despite having considerable tricks up his sleeve. It remains to be seen how well Bumrah masters the knuckle ball now, because losing control would definitely mean going for runs.
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