Jasprit Bumrah has always been infatuated about improving his skills. Last year after being ruled out of T20 and ODI series in England due to a fractured finger, he returned home with a box of Dukes balls. Unable to bowl, Bumrah spent his time by acquainting himself to Dukes ball by resting and running his index and middle fingers down the seam.
What was the purpose of it? Burmah had never bowled with the Dukes ball and wanted to make sure the skin on his fingers was familiar with the prominent seam. Bumrah had heard how the pronounced Dukes ball seam had been inflicting minor cuts on the Indian bowler's fingertips and he wanted to ensure his fingers were seasoned for the challenge ahead.
On Saturday evening as most of India dozed off, Bumrah hooped the Dukes ball like a magician as he became the only third Indian bowler to claim a hat-trick to finish the day with figures of 6-16. Ever since his finger gripping project in India, Bumrah has picked a wicket every 38 balls with the Dukes ball.
It just further exemplifies his maturity and his constant drive to improve. Bumrah might be blessed with a unique action, but his evolving skills are a credit to his mind and hard work. Above all, he has the brains to outsmart the batsmen.
Last week in Antigua, he terrorised the West Indies left-handers with inswingers. At Sabina Park, he tortured them by shaping the ball away from the bat. Dwayne Bravo was a victim of Bumrah's sheer brilliance. Bumrah had uprooted his off-stump with a prodigious inswinger in the previous innings, so he knew the left-hander would be anticipating the ball angling towards him. Bravo had even changed his guard, but what he did not foresee is the delivery that jagged across him. Burmah meant it and got it his reward.
Shamarh Brooks would have seen Bumrah uprooting stumps with the outswinger from the dressing room a few days ago, so he was ambushed by the one that swung late and cannoned into his pads. Roston Chase also looked amused as his first ball tailed in late to strike him in front of his stumps. In a space of three balls, Burmah had perhaps scarred the West Indies top-order for life. His mind is far too advanced. His dexterity is far too supreme.
A toe-crushing yorker and a crunchy nip-backer would have been satisfactory for most bowlers in the world, but not Bumrah. He wanted to evolve and kept picking people's mind. Bumrah developed an outswinger with the aid of RP Singh. The former Indian quick solidified his wrist position and showed him how to manipulate it at release point.
But while others might have tried it immediately on the grand stage, Bumrah waited patiently until he had mastered it. The perplexed look on Keaton's Jenning's face as he shouldered arms to one that cut back at him in Southampton Test was a sight to behold.
"Lot of hard-work and practice goes into that (bowling the outswinger). I always had the inswinger but the more I played the more confident I got. Playing with the Dukes ball in England helped me a lot too. It has helped my confidence," he said after the first match.
Bumrah now faces a healthy conundrum — does he execute an outswinger or the inswinger? He can now accomplish both by a slight manipulation of his wrists. It is an art that not many have managed to master in the history of the game. Only 12 Test matches in his career, Bumrah has conquered it. But perhaps above all, it is the intellectual thrill in watching Bumrah unleashing his weapons that makes him far superior to anyone in the world.
"(We are) always trying to evolve as a bowler and always trying to do new things and when the ball is not swinging maybe try and use the seam to get the movement. A lot of communication goes between the bowlers and sometimes you just need to hit good areas and everything else will follow", he said.
Those close to Bumrah say he is a fast learner and one thought that constantly lingers in his mind is 'what next?' A toe crushing yorker, sharp bouncer, a slower ball, an inswinger, an outswinger, and even a Test hat-trick — seriously what next? Bumrah probably knows it already or perhaps with the big home season coming up he will just start flicking the SG ball in his fingers.