Jasprit Bumrah is a story of serendipitous find and stirring deeds. Initially everyone looked at his unusual action with curiosity. There were many who felt that biomechanics would find everything wrong with his arm action. But Bumrah’s has been a triumphant march.
Into his seventh year of competitive cricket the speed merchant from Gujarat is considered world class in all formats. Gujarat bowling coach Hitesh Majumdar says that Bumrah has, on a number of occasions in the Ranji Trophy, made batsmen quiver.
Once Bumrah made a big impact in major domestic competitions, events unfolded at a fast clip for him. He was capped by India in blue and then in flannels. In a short span of three years, he has turned out to be exceptional, playing Tests in South Africa, England and Australia.
Interesting back story
Bumrah, now 25, too has an interesting back story. Even as the 2012-13 season was about to conclude, John Wright, former coach of the Indian team, spotted an 18-year-old fast bowler gifted with ability to deliver raw pace and extract terrific lift off the wicket during the West Zone Twenty20 league before IPL 2013. A vicious bouncer – off a good length that flew over a Mumbai batsman and the then Gujarat captain and keeper Parthiv Patel – prompted Wright to ascertain Bumrah’s details. By late evening he was in the Mumbai Indians squad.
Since then, it has been a steady and spectacular rise for the fast bowler with the peculiar sling action. What’s significant in his collection of 185 international wickets is that he has clean-bowled 56, trapped leg-before 27 and has had 32 caught at the wicket; numbers that reflect his accuracy with both the new and old ball.
Gujarat head coach Vijay Patel says, “He was playing for Nirman High School. We got information that there is a boy bowling with an awkward action. So we looked at him. He was generating a lot of pace and taking wickets. We played him in the inter-districts only because of his action and pace.
No change in action
“Even today his odd action is troubling all cricketers. We did not want to change his action. We were told by many that his action would make him injury-prone and he will not last long. We sent him to the MRF Pace Academy and even Dennis Lillee was against changing his action. These days players strengthen their weak parts of the body to remain fit. Jasprit has taken all opportunities.”
Initially, Bumrah’s leg-before appeals were turned down by many umpires. “They did not respond positively to his LBW appeals because of his action. They thought all his deliveries were in-swingers and the angle of it would make the ball miss the stumps. They had a fixed thing in their mind. Then he gradually developed the out-swinger and a variety of deliveries,” said Patel.
“When I first saw Jasprit in 2013 he was all sheer pace. Line and length was an issue. But as the T20 format progressed and he put in a lot of hard work, he has turned out to be remarkable,” says former Gujarat seamer and current bowling coach Hitesh Majumdar.
“With MI, he was able to interact with great bowlers like Shaun Pollock, Shane Bond and Lasith Malinga. He has improved a lot in line and length. His graph has only gone upwards, all by his own sheer hard work,” says Majumdar.
Another person, who saw the talent, in the young fast bowler was Narendra Pancholi, a journalist, who was coach at Ahmedabad’s H.B. Kapadia High School. “I met him in 2007-08. He came for the selection trials of the school team. His action was the same then; it has not changed a bit. All I told him was to bowl straight and he will get wickets. He bowled so fast that the batsmen (in the under-14 team) could not see the ball. He was always hitting the stumps,” he says.
Parthiv Patel, recalling the bowler’s first season for the State, says: “Even before he was picked to play for Gujarat, we played for the same club (Income Tax Club in Ahmedabad). I always felt that he had the spark in him to progress in his career and go on to represent India. In fact, I was pushing for him to be picked in the Ranji Trophy team, one year before he actually played. I wanted him to play in 2012; he played in 2013.”
At the World Cup, skipper Virat Kohli will lean heavily on Bumrah for quick breakthroughs. The pacer had meagre returns in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy in England – just four wickets at 52.50 in 42 overs in five matches. Should June-July turn out to be a bright English Summer, Bumrah’s task will be cut out.