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The evolution of Bumrah the Test bowler

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Jasprit_Bumrah_India_Test_CricketWhen Jasprit Bumrah injured himself during India’s tour of Ireland before the all-important series against England, there were worried reactions all around the Indian camp. A fractured finger ruled him out for the limited overs games against Ireland and England, as well as the first two Tests. His loss was felt deeply, especially at Lord’s, where the Indian seamers were unable to control their line and lengths on a wicket that had plenty for the fast bowlers. 

The fact that the duo of Mohammad Shami and Ishant Sharma conceded 197 runs in the lone innings they bowled, compared to the combined match figures of 51.2-18-124-16 that James Anderson and Stuart Broad bowled over two innings, highlighted how the services of the Ahmedabad bowler were needed. Once Bumrah returned at Trent Bridge, his zingy deliveries and yorkers constantly troubled Joe Root, who was tested with movement. He maintained a strict line throughout the match to finish with a 5-wicket haul in the second innings. From this, his importance and value to the Test side could be gauged. 

However, Indian cricket could have missed a shining star in their ranks if not for the bold decision made by Ravi Shastri and Bharat Arun way back in November 2017. Up until then, Bumrah had been stereotyped as a short format bowler, with his uncanny action and toe-crushing deliveries leading to his success. It was assumed that if Bumrah entered the Test circuit, he would have to bring more variations into his game, which could possibly lead to his downfall. However, the two coaches were convinced that the tracks in South Africa had adequate juice in them for Bumrah. With batsmen picking him late in the ODIs, there was no reason why he could be sussed out in the longest format. 

A debut worth cherishing

When Bumrah was unleashed against the Proteas, he made an immediate impact at Cape Town. He claimed AB de Villiers as his first wicket - with the batsman forced to drive a full length ball that swung in. In the second innings, Bumrah accounted for Faf du Plessis with a ball that kicked off length. Quinton de Kock fell to a delivery that climbed as it nipped back in sharply. Bumrah had well and truly arrived in Test cricket. 

He ended the series with 14 wickets in 3 games at an average of 25.21 - the second best figures by an Indian bowler who has played only a series in the nation. With 6 of those dismissals either being bowled or leg before, Bumrah’s unrelenting consistency was to be applauded. 

Despite missing two Tests in England, Bumrah ended 2018 with 48 wickets at a stunning average of 21.02 with a strike-rate of 47.4. No Indian bowler had taken as many wickets abroad in Tests in a single calendar year. No pacer had shaken the rivals with his pace, bounce and variations as much as Bumrah had. From a questionable bet in Tests to leading the pace attack within ten Tests, Bumrah has captivated the supporters whilst psychologically scarring the opposition. 

This sentiment was echoed by Jos Buttler during the game at Trent Bridge: 

 

"He generates good pace with that action. Creates a different angle to what you usually face. Definitely a guy who poses some different questions to the norm. Trying to work out the balls to play and leave against him is quite tricky with his angle, but his ability still to hold it up and take it away from the right hander. He forces you to play a lot of balls with this angle and where he delivers from.”

 

In that particular game, Buttler had been set up quite wonderfully by Bumrah, eventually losing his wicket to the quick. Bumrah used his unique release position to good effect, forcing Buttler to think that the ball would dart in, only for him to see the delivery seam away. An edge and a missed chance. 

However, not one to give up, Bumrah kept bowling wide of the crease with the new ball, pitching it on length. Buttler barely survived a bowled opportunity as the ball skimmed over the stumps. Next over, a similar delivery. This time, Bumrah finally had his man. 

He finished the tour with 14 wickets, 10 less than the leading wicket-taker Anderson, but having played two Tests fewer. 

His success continues in Australia

When Michael Clarke tweeted, “In the next few months, Bumrah will be the no.1 bowler in all formats”, his impact in the recently-concluded series could be imagined. Australians are hardly the kind to dish out lavish praises on their rivals. Hence it was no small achievement to be singled out by the former Aussie skipper. 21 wickets at a jaw-dropping average of 17 with a wicket every 44.9 balls did deserve that kind of praise. 

No other Indian paceman has made the kind of impact that Bumrah made in Australia. He powered through with his unique action and fired thunderbolts. With Tests giving him more time to inflict harm with his whippy action, the ball has a larger possibility of rising up from back of a length to strike the opponent on the knuckles, helmet, chest or shoulder. While the player gets prepared to protect his body, Bumrah removes him with craft, either targeting them with 149kmph deliveries or by taking the pace off the ball. 

Shastri judged Bumrah’s talent in white-ball cricket and under Arun, Bumrah prospered into the match-winner that we know him as today. The latter worked tirelessly on his wrist position but was careful not to change his action. The wrist was forced higher and more upright even though it was far away from the body. This belief, coupled with Virat Kohli’s constant backing, has led to Bumrah becoming the stunningly effective Test bowler he is today. 



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