Jasprit Bumrah: Whippy, Slingy and the Future of Cricket.
Watching Bumrah bowl is electric, it’s thrilling, it’s enough to wake up even the oldest, most dower members in their pavilion seats. Every delivery you tell yourself that this shouldn’t work, everything in the history of the game says that this man should not be an effective bowler; then you watch it happen. Each subtle adjustment, each flick of the wrist and slight change of angle, comes off almost exactly how he planned and the Oval was the perfect stage for this magic man to showcase his talent. Bumrahs spell on the final day at the Oval (6-3-6-2) was the stuff of magic and cricket should be thankful that one of it’s prime entertainers, and the future of all 3 formats, is looking back to his best.
When he first came onto the scene Bumrah was always going to be doubted. The action is wild, fast, obscure and thus in turn a challenge to our fundamental beliefs of what a good bowler looks like. Yet the wrist ends up behind the ball, the ball ends up wherever he wishes and we all end up watching in anticipation as we marvel over what this lovable wizard will do next.
White ball cricket is his game, he owns the arena and when the ball is in his hand and he’s steaming in, no one comes close. Up top he strikes with the new ball, in the middle he ramps it up and makes himself hard to hit whilst also still presenting the wicket taking ability and at the back end he bowls better than anyone has ever done before. Yorker after yorker is nailed as the arm whips around and batters panic, frantically trying to find a solution. Bumrah has it all and when he’s on song there are few, if any able to match his level.
Test cricket is where the real fun lies with Bumrah. His start to life in test cricket was unsurprising to say the least with 48 wickets at an average of 21 in his first full year being the return which many expected but nonetheless every ball was exciting and a joy to behold. Bumrah successfully incorporated every single skill he had learnt across formats and has evolved into one of the most versatile and trustworthy test cricketers of the modern age. Control of line and length is vital in test cricket and Bumrah is the best in the business. Offer up seams and swing to Bumrah and you’ll soon regret it (just ask Keaton Jennings front pad). Bounce and pace? He’ll crank it up and knock your head off. Look I can ramble about Bumrah for pages and pages but instead here’s 3 dismissals over the course of a series that highlight exactly why he’s the most enthralling, most useful and arguably quite easily the best bowler in world cricket.
Exhibit A: Rory Burns. Burns had been in fine form all summer, racking in runs for Surrey and being Englands best bat vs New Zealand. 5 balls. That’s all he survived vs Bumrah as the Indian pacer pushed a few across before hooping one back in and Burns was gone. Getting left handers LBW is almost impossible in the age of DRS but such is Bumrahs control over the ball that it pitches perfectly in line and swings in just enough. Bumrah had picked up right where he left off in 2018. That was the start of something special as Bumrah ran through the English lineup and what better way to start than to remove their in form batter. There was no playing it, the setup was masterfully done, the ball was perfect, a delivery which very few could ever dream of mastering but Bumrah did it first over, first spell, first match; no worries.
Exhibit B: Ollie Robinson. The game is dying and India are petering. Ollie Robinson is seemingly an immovable object and along with Jos Buttler looks like stealing a thoroughly undeserved draw for England. Up steps Bumrah. Deep into the game, Kohli turns to his main man; he needs something special. The setup is drawn out as the field is placed, Bumrah and Kohli have worked this perfectly and the tension is palpable. Round the wicket, everyone knows that this translates to short stuff incoming. Before Bumrah has even delivered the ball Robinson is backing up and then everyone is shocked. The ball is fizzing out of his hand, it dips in the air, Robinson is done all ends up and the ball darts across him violently spitting off the surface and he’s plumb LBW. Bumrah decided to use an off cutter, from around the wicket, with the test on the line, and he’s bowled the almost perfect ball. No one does that.
Exhibit C: Johnny Bairstow. Bairstow has looked formidable all series, often throwing away his wicket; pretty 30’s don’t win tests but England would kill for one right about now. Bumrah has got the ball to start reversing and in a big way, his tail is up. Ollie Pope, who looked so imperious the first time round, has already been clean bowled and Bairstow is next on the conveyor. The infamous run up starts, the paces are short but even then you can tell he’s in the zone, he has the rhythm and the fire that only comes around once in while and when it does you better start paying attention. The knees aren’t pumping like Broad but everyone knows that this is a spell similar to the one we saw in 09; the ball is doing a lot and Bumrah is making what should be a dead game spring to life. Survival is the only thing on Bairstows mind. The ball starts to tail in, it’s a yorker and naturally it’s perfect. Bairstow reads it well and in the split millisecond he has to react he plays the right line and seemingly gets his bat down in time. He’s survived. Then, right at the last second it begins to sear in again this time going further and further and eventually it creeps under the bat. Stumps are gone, Bairstows out for a duck, Jasprit is on fire and Test Cricket has its entertainer back.
Bumrah has only just begun his journey in test cricket and has already become the fastest ever Indian bowler to 100 test wickets. All three formats will be dominated by Jasprit over the coming years and cricket needs him. A player of his quality, his calibre and one who possesses his ability to put bums on seats then make you sit right on the edge of them is rare and cricket needs him. Imagining a future without Jasprit Bumrah involved in it is a hard task and one that I would rather not indulge in, for now let us relax, sit back and realise that cricket has it’s next star boy, this is the man to save the game.