India vs West Indies: Jasprit Bumrah's sterling five-wicket haul against Windies catapults him among fast bowling greats of 21st century

  • Subash Jayaraman
  • August 26th, 2019
  • 9:03:44 IST

With all due respect to Kapil Dev and every Indian player that has ever picked up a cricket ball and wanted to be a pacer, and achieved their dream, India has never had anyone like Jasprit Bumrah. The combination of skills, abilities and smarts that Bumrah possesses at such an early stage of international career leaves rest of the Indian fast bowlers receding in the rearview mirror.

Just by plain numbers, the above statement is true: Bumrah is the fastest of all Indian pace bowlers to reach 50 Test wickets (in his 11th), taking the record that was jointly owned by Mohammad Shami and Venkatesh Prasad (13 Tests). For what he has already accomplished, the sheer thrills and the promise of Test greatness, only Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn are in the same zip code as Bumrah of the fast bowlers to have started their Test career in the 21st century. (Let the Jofradamus play 10 Tests and if England don't bowl him into the ground by then, he could probably join this elite club.)

India's Jasprit Bumrah looks at West Indies' Shai Hope after dismissing him during day four of the first Test cricket match at the Sir Vivian Richards cricket ground in North Sound, Antigua and Barbuda, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

Jasprit Bumrah could have ended the day with his best bowling figures only for a couple of close chances and a dropped catch. AP/Ricardo Mazalan

Surely you still remember the slower ball at the stroke of lunch to Shaun Marsh? Bumrah was gracious to give the credit to Rohit Sharma for the idea to use that delivery at that moment but the perfect execution of it was no accident.

It took a couple of Tests for Bumrah — seen primarily as a limited-overs specialist — to get his feet wet. His third and fourth Test in Johannesburg and Nottingham, respectively, both India wins, saw Bumrah pick the first two of his five-wicket hauls as well. That he quickly sussed out the requirements of Test match bowling and applied himself to it showed a terrific cricketing mind.

At the 2019 World Cup, Mitchell Starc was the highest wicket-taker in the tournament but it was arguably Bumrah that was the bowler of the tournament, combining economy and wicket-taking ability. It was no surprise that Bumrah was rested after the World Cup only to be called up for the Test series leg of the tour to the West Indies.

"Against the best in the world, you tend to play the ball (and not the bowler)" said Jason Holder before the Test match at Antigua, "It's a 5.5 oz ball coming down and we have to focus on that regardless of who has it in their hands." A good thought to take away the pressure of reputation of the bowler on the batsman. And that worked in the first innings.

Coming back from a month-long layoff, and having bowled only a few overs in the warm-up match, Bumrah felt a "bit stiff" and "did not have his rhythm". Not only had he not done much bowling coming into the Test, he hadn't bowled in a Test match since January. His lengths were not accurate, and his lines were neither threatening the stumps often nor the edges. The figures of 18-4-55-1 were probably an accurate reflection of his bowling efforts in the first innings but India were bailed out by their most senior bowler, Ishant Sharma.

Hanuma Vihari, who made his personal best Test score on the day, informed that Bumrah felt that "he was not upto the standards" and that "he was quite fired up" to make up for an average bowling performance of the first innings. He surely did that, and how!

The least impressive of the wickets Bumrah was the first one that came his away in his first over of the innings. An impatient Kraigg Brathwaite tickled a slightly wide delivery to the keeper and the opening was created. The next four wickets of what would become his fourth five-wicket haul in Tests, Bumrah made the ball sing to his command and uprooting the batsmen's stumps.

It was the remarkable combination of accuracy of length, consistency of pace, control of lines and the skill to produce late swing that produced a stupendous spell on a day of superlative cricketing accomplishments in other parts of the world.

John Campbell was beaten by the late inward movement into him as he attempted a drive leaving a gap between bat and pad and his middle stump was juddered out of the ground. For Darren Bravo's dismissal, read the previous sentence and change the batsman's name.

Mayhem had begun and Windies were in freefall, and oh there were a few outside edges that were beaten and straightforward chance off Shimron Hetmeyer dropped by Virat Kohli at third slip. Else, Bumrah would have registered his career-best figures by improving on his current best of 6/33 by 26 runs! That's videogame cheat code stuff.

Bumrah's fourth wicket came when the ball came in with the angle, pitched around off stump before changing direction off the pitch and headed for the off stump. Shai Hope played for the line and the off-stump was sent flying.

His last wicket of the day was the best of the match and would make the recent Test retiree Dale Steyn proud. If you remember Steyn's delivery to Cheteshwar Pujara from the Capetown Test of 2011, move the line from leg stump to middle and the mode of dismissal from LBW to bowled. The ball flew in towards the middle stump, drawing the bat of Jason Holder forward in defence and viciously cut away to smash into the outer half of off-stump.

8-4-7-5. Vihari wasn't kidding when he said Bumrah was fired up. As Holder's stump took the beating, Bumrah, not one given to exaggerated celebrations, pointed to his name on the back of his shirt. At the end of that over, Kohli perhaps enforced the mercy rule or wanted to share the remaining wickets with the other bowlers, and gave Bumrah off the rest of the innings. Admitting that coming back from a long break from the game, he had not hit the straps as well as he would have liked in the first innings, Bumrah happily acknowledged that "things were all sorted by the second innings." Things and West Indian batsmen.

Updated Date: August 26, 2019 09:03:44 IST

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