T20 World Cup: Batters' Bogeyman, Bumrah

Sunday was yet another day where pacer's genius was there for the world to witness
Jasprit Bumrah celebrates the dismissal of Pakistan's captain Babar Azam during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in Westbury, New York, Sunday, June 9, 2024.
Jasprit Bumrah celebrates the dismissal of Pakistan's captain Babar Azam during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in Westbury, New York, Sunday, June 9, 2024.Photo | AP

CHENNAI: Jasprit Bumrah does not give away much as a pacer on the field. The cricketing world knows it all too well at this point. But he doesn't give away too much off the field as well, at least not about his bowling plans.
Ask him if he is in the best phase as an international cricketer just after winning his second consecutive Player of the Match award — courtesy of a spell for the ages against Pakistan to defend a below-par total — in the T20 World Cup, he would turn the tables, saying, "Yeah, see a year ago, the same people were saying that I might not play again and my career is over and then now the question changed."

It is not the first time he has done that. Back in October, he said the same about how he was feeling since his comeback. Ask him if it means a little more when he dismisses a particular batter who had taken him on in the past, he would say there is too much cricket to keep count. His celebrations, his elaborate set ups would tell you otherwise. If it is a big occasion, he would say that it is all about trying to control the controllables while admitting that it is a cliche. Bumrah would also add that he was trying to create his bubble, taking people and emotions out of it.

But then, most high-achieving elite athletes are like that. They seldom give away their tricks. And Bumrah is definitely one of them. It would be nowhere near an understatement to say that he has etched his name in the history books as the best male pacer to have come from India. It should not be a surprise if he goes down as the best male cricketer ever by the time he is done with his sport. The genius that he is can be seen and understood in the way former fast bowlers and legends go gaga over him.

On Sunday, Bumrah gave one more spell for the cricketing world to celebrate him. India vs Pakistan. A run-a-ball target. In Nassau County, USA. A buzz like never before in the county and perhaps the New York state for cricket. And the entire globe had their eyes glued to television sets. The stakes could not have been higher. What did Bumrah do? Come back with figures of 4-0-14-3 to hand India a six-run win. The 'what' doesn't surprise anymore. It is the 'how' that keeps getting fascinating every time he outperforms the opponents like putting together a bunch of puzzles.

On Sunday, it was about not trying too much and sticking to the basics. Coming on to bowl in the third over, Bumrah delivered two overs in the powerplay. And through those overs — with a shorter leg-side boundary — Bumrah was using his natural angle and bowling into the stumps. The lines were such that he was either hitting the stumps or was on the fifth stump line. And depending on the direction in which the ball moved, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan were caught in the crease. One drop catch (Rizwan) and a boundary later, Bumrah had the last laugh. A short-of-length which Babar tried to line up on the leg side, but the ball held its line after pitching. Babar adjusted at the last minute and tried to guide it down third, but was caught at slips. After powerplay, his spell read 2-0-9-1.

When he came back for the 15th over, the angle remained the same and so were the boundary lengths. This time, he was rewarded on the very first delivery. Another shortish delivery angled in and Rizwan missed the line. Middle stump uprooted and Bumrah let out a roar. He knew what it meant. He knew what he had done for the team. Turned the match on its head with one more wicket in the penultimate over. By the time he was done, his spell read 4-0-14-3.

But again, if you ask him about how he managed to not try too much in helpful conditions, Bumrah would say: "Even when there is help, you can be desperate, and you can try to go fuller and try to pull that magic delivery. I tried not to do that but when we came, the swing and seam had reduced. So, we had to be accurate because if we go for magic deliveries and try to be too desperate, run making becomes easy and they know the target. So, we had to be very mindful of not overdoing it and add up pressure, use the big boundaries, try to use things to our advantage."
That's about how much Bumrah is going to get specific about his plans.

However, he couldn't help but wear a wide grin whilst talking about how bowlers are getting their dues in this format. He would even go on and say that it means a little more coming from a batting-frenzy country. "I can't be happier listening to this. I always advocate bowlers, but we're very happy with the appreciation that bowlers have received because our country is obviously a batter-loving country and we understand that. But we are very happy that bowlers are coming up front... When it's bat vs bat, I switch off the TV. I have been a fan of bowling since childhood. When there is a challenge between bat and ball, that is the game I like. No complaints. I am very happy."

Typical Bumrah. Not giving away much about his bowling plans, but happy to advocate for bowlers. But, a happy Bumrah is a delight, and that is what not just the Indian team, but the cricketing world would want. 

Jasprit Bumrah celebrates the dismissal of Pakistan's captain Babar Azam during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in Westbury, New York, Sunday, June 9, 2024.
Year ago people asked if I was finished, now they say I am at my best: Bumrah

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