A few seasons into the Indian Premier League (IPL), a lot of people were questioning whether it is just a money-making machinery or is it actually helping Indian cricket? Where are the young batsmen? Where are the big hitters? Oh and most importantly, where are the death bowlers who can bowl six yorkers and do that under pressure. Does rubbing shoulders with the international stars really help? Will the IPL give India its Malinga?
In India’s Group game against Bangladesh at Bengaluru in World T20 last year, a definitive answer emerged. India was staring at a defeat and an early exit from World T20. Bangladesh needed 17 runs in two overs with two accomplished batsmen in the middle. The 19th over was always going to be crucial and Dhoni turned to 22-year old Bumrah. The game is more famous for its dramatic last over finish where three wickets fell off the last three balls, but it was Bumrah’s 19th over that kept India in the game. He bowled six yorkers and gave six singles. India had its Malinga.
Bumrah had attributed his skills to working under none other than Malinga at Mumbai Indians. He was always talked about in the domestic circuit for his extra pace and unusual action and was part of India A team even before growing a reputation in IPL. He possessed the skills already, but they were fine tuned to perfection at Mumbai Indians. Bowling at the death is part mindset, part planning, part execution. Bumrah perfected it all. For variation, he added an extremely deceptive slower delivery. He bowled bouncers when he suspected batsmen were lining themselves up or if the pitch had something in it.
Bumrah is a complete limited-overs bowler and a huge asset for Mumbai Indians (MI) and Indian cricket. Mumbai Indians’ success in IPL has a lot to do with their impeccable death bowling. They had the quality of Malinga to give them a huge edge for several years. Having Bumrah doing the same now is gold.
While his death bowling stands out, Bumrah is far from being one-dimensional. In fact, he is turning into a captain’s dream doing everything his captain wants. He is potent with the old ball but he picks important wickets with the new ball as well bowling lethal inswingers at pace. He adjusts his line of attack based on the pitch condition, match situation and batsman at the other end. His skills make him hard to negotiate, his steely nerves and brain make him lethal.
Bumrah last two games in the IPL have been an exhibition of his talent and reliability. At Bangalore in Qualifier 2, Mumbai Indians had seen Kolkata Knight Riders decimate Sunrisers Hyderabad on a pitch that was two-paced with variable bounce. Bowling first, they knew they don’t want to chase a big total on this pitch. Bumrah responded brilliantly to his captain's call with figures of 3 for 7 in his 3 overs. With the new ball, he bowled two overs, giving away just two runs and dismissing two most dangerous batsmen in Kolkata line-up, Lynn and Uthappa. On a slow pitch where batsmen were worried about his variations, Bumrah slipped one in at 144 kph to beat Uthappa’s defence. He has the skills to surprise batsmen with pace but he, more importantly, he has the brains to disguise it well and use it when the batsmen are least expecting. He came back with the old ball and finished the job with the wicket of Suryakumar Yadav to ensure his batsmen had to chase a comfortable target of 108 which they did with ease.
There was more pressure on Bumrah on the night of the final. Mumbai Indians’ batting had faltered badly but they managed to give him something to bowl at. When you are defending a small total, an early wicket is essential to lift the team morale. Bumrah, just like the previous game, delivered in his first over trapping Tripathi lbw. When wickets weren’t coming, his team had decided to keep the run-scoring down as much as possible. Bumrah conceded just five singles in his second over managing to keep both Smith and Rahane quiet.
In the 17th over of the match, he claimed the big fish. MS Dhoni isn’t quite the finisher he once was but his presence was still enough to finish the game for Pune. Dhoni must have played a lot of Bumrah in the nets and would have expected the yorker first up but Bumrah gave him the regulation length ball. Dhoni seemed a tad late in responding and edged it through to the keeper. Bumrah, once again, was keeping hopes alive.
Bumrah was back to bowl the crucial 19th over once again after seeing his role model Malinga roll back the clock with a brilliant 18th over. His first four balls were near perfect yorkers. Bumrah missed his length by a fraction on the fifth ball and Smith adjusted brilliantly by staying deep in the crease and depositing it back over long off. But still having not conceded another boundary in the over, Bumrah managed to keep the hope alive. In the final over, the other Mumbai stalwart got them home with his brilliant skills and some luck.
Rohit Sharma in his post match interview said the belief is always there when you have Bumrah and Malinga in the team. Captain’s belief is what every bowler strives for and Bumrah’s biggest reward and the biggest proof of his coming of age is the belief that all his captains have had in him.
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