There have been quite a few stages in Jasprit Bumrah’s short career as a cricketer so far.
In the first stage, that is during the first three seasons of his IPL career, he was nothing more than a bowler with a slingy action.
In the second stage, during the last two seasons of the IPL, he transformed into a bowler who could bowl deceptive slower balls and immaculate yorkers with pinpoint accuracy. Such attributes earned him the tag of a death overs specialist and he became a vital cog in the Indian bowling unit ever since his debut in the away series against Australia in January 2016.
With his spell of 5/27 against Sri Lanka in the 3rd ODI on Sunday, Bumrah became the first Indian bowler in three years to claim a five-wicket haul in ODIs. Prior to Sunday’s match against Sri Lanka, people used to rate him highly as a death overs bowler. However, his prowess as a new ball bowler had always been under scrutiny.
The main weapon of new ball bowlers is swing and initial movement off the pitch. However, Bumrah could hardly extract either of those all through his short career so far. But, Sunday was a bit different for the 23-year old. Two off the five victims that he claimed were with the new ball and those two were deliveries of which any fast bowler would be proud. For the first time since his debut, it seemed like he performed so well with the new ball. His transition from a death overs specialist to a new ball bowler, it would appear, was finally complete.
It seems like just yesterday when the Mumbai Indians unearthed a talented 19-year old fast bowler with a slingy action from Gujarat. He claimed figures of 3/32 in his debut IPL match and soon the world started calling him the Indian version of Lasith Malinga. However, it was only the slingy action that he and Malinga had in common back then.
However, as he spent a couple of more seasons in the Mumbai Indians camp along with Malinga, Bumrah adopted the former’s ability to bowl deceptive slower balls and toe-crushing yorkers as well, and most importantly, at a consistent rate. A successful couple of seasons followed with the Mumbai Indians in 2016 and 2017 during which he picked up 15 and 20 wickets respectively.
The selectors soon realised the importance of his death bowling prowess for Team India and thus included him in the ODI and T20I squads for the away series against Australia in 2015-16. Bumrah made his debut in the final ODI of the five match series and picked up figures of 2/40. It included the wickets of Steve Smith — who was caught at short mid-wicket trying to pull a deceptive slower ball bouncer — and James Faulkner who was cleaned up with a toe-crushing yorker.
A successful T20I series followed in which he picked up five wickets, four of which came while bowling in the last few overs of the match. The story from then continued to be the same. He would pick up a wicket in the middle overs and death overs, but seldom with the new ball. Even if he did pick up a wicket with the new ball, it tended to come off a tricky slower ball. Swing and movement off the pitch were totally absent in his kind of bowling.
Of the 37 ODI victims he has claimed so far, 10 have been top order batsmen batting in the top five and the rest have been those of batsmen batting lower down the order. That sums up the details of the stages when Bumrah has picked up most of his wickets.
On Sunday, Bumrah seemed like a different kind of a bowler.
He was continuously troubling Niroshan Dickwella with his swinging deliveries and purchase off the pitch. First, he trapped him LBW with a lethal full delivery in the fourth over of the innings. However, the decision was reversed following a review by Dickwella as the ball pitched outside leg stump. And then again, a couple of deliveries later, Bumrah produced a peach.
The ball pitched on a full length on the middle and leg stump and with a hint of movement it trapped him plumb in front of the stumps. Dickwella was forced to walk back to the pavilion in the fourth over of the innings due to a beauty of a delivery produced by Bumrah.
He produced another beauty in the 8th over of the innings when he dismissed Kusal Mendis. Pitching it short of good length and just outside off-stump, Bumrah induced an edge of Mendis’ bat that was caught by a flying Rohit Sharma in the slips. There was Bumrah showing what he could do with the new ball in hand.
The rest of the wickets that he picked up were that of Lahiru Thrimanne, Akila Dhananjaya and Milinda Siriwardana in the 40th, 46th and 48th overs of the innings respectively. Thirimanne was a victim of a slower ball while Dananjaya and Siriwardene were knocked over with fast deliveries that drifted inwards.
Sunday’s match was more about Bumrah the new ball bowler than Bumrah the death overs bowler. And he would do well to keep bowling like this with the new ball in the future as well.
(This post first appeared on Firstpost on August 28, 2017)