Jasprit Bumrah the 'national treasure'

Jasprit was the backbone and differential factor for the Indian team in the 2024 T20 World Cup — 15 wickets at an average of 8.26 and economy of 4.17
Jasprit Bumrah
Jasprit BumrahPhoto |Express illustrations - Mandar Pardikar

On Thursday night, the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai was filled to the brim. The occasion was momentous. Cutting through all sections of society, thousands converged into the stadium. Their only motive was to get a glimpse, even a faint one, of the stars that lifted the T20 World Cup in the USA and the West Indies.

And in the middle was Virat Kohli, the player of the match in the final, talking to the presenter on the temporary podium. The crowd at the venue went ‘Chiku, chiku, chiku’ (his nickname) so much that he had to pause and smile. However, he didn’t stop there. He interrupted them and asked them to applaud someone else. The broadcaster cut to Jasprit Bumrah who was sitting with his teammates in the middle — often a quiet and unassuming person who is seen as balanced and not moved by extreme emotions — almost blushing.

Kohli didn’t have to mention the name, the crowd knew it all too well. They erupted with chants of ‘Boom boom, Bumrah’. This, here, is something that’s alien to Indian cricket. A fast bowler is getting all the adulation. Kohli’s petition of announcing Jasprit as ‘National Treasure’ does have its merit.

As a cricketing nation, India has always had its share of legends. From Sunil Gavaskar to Sachin Tendulkar; MS Dhoni to Kohli and Rohit Sharma, they have their own fan following, almost cult-like. And Kapil Dev was an all-rounder. But, Bumrah is unique. He has carved a niche of his own and built a sacred edifice that is usually associated with batters in this country. That’s for no reason either. Every time he gets the ball he can turn the tides and it’s not an exaggeration. The toe crushing yorkers, the slower ones and the length balls are all unplayable. Bumrah, the unorthodox bowler, has been the phenomenon.

Bumrah’s rise too seems surreal. The fairytale started in Ahmedabad. Raised by single mother Daljit Bumrah in Goyal Intercity society on Thaltej Road, his childhood wasn’t a featherbed. She was a school teacher who had to take care of the household, Jasprit and his elder sister after his father died when he was five. Back then, all Jasprit used to do was watch fast bowlers rattling stumps on television and try to imitate them. The legend of how he practised bowling yorkers in the drawing room to ensure he doesn’t disturb Daljit’s afternoon nap is well chronicled. But even then, getting cricket equipment on a teacher’s salary wasn’t easy. Things got better after Daljit joined Nirman High School as principal. By then Jasprit too started earning through the sport. It was in 2013 the world took notice of Jasprit. The then 19-year-old pacer was scouted by Mumbai Indians, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the decade since, he has been the key architect in MI winning five IPL titles, numerous Test wins for India, 2017 Champions Trophy, 2023 ODI World Cup and 2024 T20 WC campaigns with 397 international wickets across formats. That he has the second most number of maidens in the shortest format explains his stature in T20s.

So, when former West Indian fast bowler Ian Bishop says ‘award Jasprit a doctorate in fast bowling’, he means it. “History will award him his due place in the pantheon of great fast bowlers across formats. What I think we need to do is show him appreciation. It is to ensure that his knowledge and while he’s at the peak of his powers, his execution is not missed by the next generation,” Bishop said.

Jasprit was the backbone and differential factor for the Indian team in the 2024 T20 WC — 15 wickets at an average of 8.26 and economy of 4.17 — but the heaterning thing was that others played their parts too in making this dream of his and the country come true. Captain Rohit Sharma with the bat, Suryakumar Yadav on the field, Arshdeep Singh and Kuldeep Singh with the ball, everyone chipped in to end India’s ICC title drought. One cannot forget the coach Rahul Dravid and his staff and the backroom boys either.

At 30, the kid from Goyal Intercity society has done enough to warrant a significant chapter in Indian cricket history. There are young boys and girls in every city, imitating Jasprit’s action; the jersey number 93 is beginning to be a prominent feature in the stands as much as the No. 10, 7, 18 and 45. As Bishop said, history will give Jasprit his due in the pantheon of fast bowlers. But for now, he has already changed the way Indians look at and appreciate pacers. And therein lies Jasprit’s generational legacy.

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The New Indian Express