You do not have to dig deep to find out why Jasprit Bumrah is spoken of, admired, respected and, perhaps even feared, as being one of the world’s best fast bowlers today. You do not have to be biased to believe that Bumrah, him of the raw talent that has fetched him 185 wickets in just of three years of international cricket, is one of India’s precious assets. A most charming one at that.
He shows that it is possible to be a mean fast bowler and yet remain likeable. It is possible to be adored and admired, praised and lauded and yet stay rooted in humility. It is possible to turn matches on their head and yet remember to praise the team. And, it is possible to find happiness in a title win and yet keep feet on ground, head on shoulders.
More than anything else, it is his earthiness helps Bumrah stay in the zone and deliver his best, performing at optimum levels. You can sense him giving himself positive affirmations all the time. That enables him to trust his own skills in competition, having honed them with endless hours of work in practice.
The 25-year-old has a range of skills — combining pace, swing, cut and variations of length to keep the batsmen on their toes. But, more importantly, he has the intelligence to be aware of when to use different aspects. It is this that offers an insight into his strong mental make-up that enhances his basic skill sets as a fast bowler.
The IPL final was an indication, even if he bowled just four overs, that he is able to adapt his bowling to the conditions. He used the short-pitched delivery to great effect, bouncing out Ambati Rayudu and Dwayne Bravo for his two wickets. The figures of two for 14 in four overs were so instrumental in keeping Chennai Super Kings (CSK) at bay.
He had watched CSK's Shardul Thakur deliver two quick bouncers to prise out left-handers Quinton de Kock and Krunal Pandya. And while Deepak Chahar lured Rohit Sharma to doom with late outswing, Bumrah knew that he would have to bend his back to give his side the chance of defending 149.
The final also won him many fans for showing his gentler side to the world within moments of revealing an uncharacteristic aspect of his persona. He flashed a smile when Rahul Chahar dropped Shane Watson at square-leg, he bowled a sensational over to Dwayne Bravo and Watson, who was threatening to take the game away from Mumbai Indians. But when Quinton de Kock conceded four byes off his final delivery this IPL season, Bumrah’s reaction was different.
He stretched his arms sideways from the elbow, asking Quinton de Kock what he had done. CSK’s target had come down by four runs as the ball sped to the sightscreen after brushing de Kock’s glove. The negative body language lasted very briefly but flickered on the TV screens long enough to be noticed.
But the positive took over quickly when he realised he had perhaps behaved uncharacteristically and then stayed to put his arm around the wicket-keeper’s shoulder as a more natural response. He was back to his smiling self. It is this image that will stay implanted in the minds of those who watched the tense final moments of a dramatic, high-intensity final.
The pressure of a title clash would have been enormous. In fact, a vastly experienced professional like Lasith Malinga seemed unable to come to terms with it as he was hit all over the park in his first three overs but Bumrah made pressure his unseen accomplice so effortlessly. It was as if he was getting the butterflies to fly in great formation.
On a more serious note, for someone so young, he articulates the importance of living in the present moment as a way of dealing with pressure, as a way of so wonderfully not letting any baggage (good or bad) affect his performances. It is the simplicity of approach that endears him as the calm paceman who stirs up a mean storm.
Surely, he reminds you of destructive storms that sweep everything in their paths. He reminds you of a stealth bomber, armed with a range of missiles. He reminds you of the cheetah which can crank up speed without notice. Indeed, Bumrah reminds you of all this and more when he keeps the best batsmen on a leash, making even the likes of Virat Kohli regret deciding to take him on.
The Indian captain treated him with care, wrapping him in cotton wool after a remarkable run in Australia where he claimed 21 wickets in four matches and played no mean role in the team’s first Test series win Down Under. It will be in the fitness of things if he can raise his game and lead the Indian attack in his maiden ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England and Wales.
Fans of Indian cricket will be hoping that he was merely warming up to the task of bowling in the next 11 one-day internationals – those will be the number of games that India will play if they get through to the July 14 final – with greater resolve and intensity. No matter what happens, the affable paceman will be liked by everyone.
For, it will take some talent to dislike the young fast bowler with that wise head and a calming presence — except, of course, for batsmen who can be unsettled 20 yards across the pitch from where he delivers a variety of challenges. There should be no doubt that Jasprit Bumrah is indeed admired, respected and, perhaps even feared, as being one of the world’s best fast bowlers today.
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