Jasprit Bumrah: Has He Lost Gleam to Injury?
Fast bowler, Jasprit Bumrah showed ample promise to fill the void of fast-bowling talents in the Indian Cricket.
Fast bowlers always are the most wanted players in the spectrum of Indian cricket. However, the disparity between their demand and supply is large. Fast bowling thus has eluded Indian cricket for long. We always rued the absence of a bowler who can bowl with discipline and raw pace like those of West Indies, Australia, Pakistan and South Africa who appeared to be nightmares for batsmen. Yes, India lacked this precious quality for years. Although BCCI, at times, managed to unearth a few talented bowlers who could bowl with sheer pace, they were mostly erratic and ineffective.
For some time now, India’s decades of search for a genuine fast bowler seemed to have got over when Jasprit Bumrah burst into the international cricket. The 26-year-old pacer’s distinctive style of bowling shook the world and he carved a niche for himself in the world of fast bowling. Batsmen were clueless to his sheer pace, swing and length. His deadly toe-crushers earned him the moniker of next Lasith Malinga, who is better known for his uncanny ability to scalp wickets running through the batsmen’s defence with deadly slingers. The Sri Lankan bowling legend played a key role in nurturing the Indian talent when the duo shared Mumbai Indians’ dressing room in Indian Premier League.
Since 2016 Bumrah showed ample promise to fill the void of his predecessor Zaheer Khan, India’s most effective pacer in Tests and ODIs till date. Zaheer’s retirement had left a deep hole in India’s bowling arsenal. Hence Bumrah’s timely rise heralded a new era of Indian fast bowling with efficient support of Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to name a few. For the last four years, Indian bowling unit spearheaded by Bumrah in all three formats proved them as world’s best fast bowling attack, an accolade no other Indian pacers could have ever thought of in their career.
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With a brimming skill-set in his armoury, Bumrah seems to have raised the confidence of Indian captain, Virat Kohli, like never before.
It is a well-known that India, which is traditionally a batting-heavy team, couldn’t dominate series overseas as they lacked quality pacers. In 2018–19 tour of Australia, this notion has changed as Virat Kohli’s India notched history by winning their maiden Test series Down Under 2-1 in 70 years! It was only possible because of Bumrah’s fiery pace bowling, as he finished the four-match Test series on top of the bowling chart with 21 scalps at an average of 17. His herculean effort was ably supported but Cheteshwar Pujara who stood like a rock in front of Australian bowlers throughout the series.
However, Bumrah’s heroic rise came to a halt in mid-August 2019. After a successful maiden World Cup campaign in England where he grabbed 18 wickets, he was ruled out from all forms of cricket for four months due to a lower back stress fracture during India’s tour of West Indies last year. In this series too, the right-arm pacer had finished at the top of the bowling chart with 13 scalps.
Bumrah’s Return: A Thorny Journey
After avoiding surgery, Bumrah returned to professional cricket in January 2020 without playing any domestic cricket. The expectation was high as people were eager to see him bowling again. However, the comeback didn’t resemble the Bumrah of past. Injury is said to be taken a toll on his form or perhaps on his effectiveness. In the very first match against Sri Lanka, he proved costly as the Islanders targeted him to post a big total on the board. He picked up a wicket, but the scalp came at an economy rate of 8. However, his performance in Indore didn’t surprise cricket pundits as he was returning to the bowling mark after a long hiatus. In final T20I in Pune, he showed the spark of his old form as he conceded just five runs in two overs and picked up a wicket.
In the home ODI series against Australia, Bumrah was battered in the first ODI, but he fought back in the second and third ODI beautifully as he appeared to be inexpensive with the white cherry in hand, having finished with 3.49 and 3.80 economy rates, respectively. However, his total exploit in the series was one, the wicket of tail-ender Adam Zampa.
It is clear that Bumrah is struggling to pick up wickets. Top-order batsmen have somehow managed to eliminate the Bumrah fear from their mind. They were cautious while playing him, but Bumrah on his part was erratic too. While being economical, his newfound but unwanted ability to bowl a plethora of wide balls has become a subject of major concern for Indian team management. He also seemed to have lost the knack of picking up wickets, a thing he used to do regularly without putting much hard work.
Wickets have not followed Bumrah since his return to the game after recovering from a back injury. He unleashed as many as 14 wides in the three-match ODI series against Australia.
This trend continued in the recently concluded ODI series too as he bowled eye-raising nine wides in the first ODI against New Zealand. Although he didn’t bowl any more wide balls in the second and third ODIs, he proved expensive once again as he conceded 167 runs in three matches and returned home wicketless. Two of New Zealand’s most experienced and technically sound batsmen Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson made a mockery of the Indian pacer. Both Taylor and Williamson played improvised shots and showed tremendous footwork to pile on crucial runs against Bumrah to whitewash India 3-0 in the ODI series.
When Bumrah’s bowling in the ODIs turned out to be a major concern for captain Kohli, he was rather effective in the T20Is. Bumrah’s economy rate roamed between 5 and 6 and his total scalps in the five-match series were six. So far, in 2020, he managed to snap nine wickets in 13 matches across the formats. Nevertheless, he couldn’t justify his ability compared to his previous exploits in the limited-overs cricket before falling prey to injury.
It will not be wrong to say that his infectiveness cost India the ODI series against New Zealand after a 5-0 clean sweep in the T20Is. A wicket dry series against New Zealand also cost Bumrah the No. 1 ranking in ICC ODI bowling rankings as he was toppled by Trent Boult, who couldn’t even play the ODI series due to a broken hand, with 727 points.
With two-match Test series against New Zealand awaits Bumrah, it is now expected that a bowling prodigy like him will not consume much time to reestablish his authority in the game to prove his worth as a genuine fast bowler. It is a good shine that the pacer didn’t lose much of his pace. The only thing that he requires is a good amount of match time to get his deadly form back. At the end of the day, we have to keep in mind that, as the saying goes about talented players, the form is temporary, class is permanent.