Boom-Boom times for Indian cricket

It was during the 2012-13 season of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy that a stiff and lanky pacer with an unorthodox action made his debut for Gujarat. In the first, Jasprit Bumrah got noticed by all for his impact bowling, picking three for 14 in the final against Punjab to help his side lift the title

Boom Boom times for Indian cricket

THE TOSS: England captain Ben Stokes tosses the coin alongside India captain Jasprit Bumrah ahead of the Edgbaston Test match on 1 July 2022 (Photo: Getty)

Jasprit Bumrah was born into a Sikh Punjabi family that settled in Ahmedabad. Having lost his father at the tender age of five, Bumrah was brought up by his mother, a school teacher in Ahmedabad. The Man of the Match award in the Syed Mushtaq Ali final gave him that platform from where he was soon picked up by Mumbai Indians for the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the very same season.

And this 19-year-old fast bowler became an instant hit among the cricket fans, for less of his bowling but more for his odd-looking action. Though he played just a couple of games in the 2013 IPL season, his figures of three for 32 against Royal Challengers Bangalore grabbed him another chance for the next season with Mumbai Indians.

The next two seasons were so productive for Bumrah that he was picked to play for Team India at the beginning of 2016 against Australia. And the rest is history as Bumrah became the quickest among Indian pacers to get to 100 wickets in 2021, bettering the record of none other than India’s greatest all-rounder of all time, Kapil Dev.

While the 27-year-old Bumrah claimed his 100th scalp in his 24th Test, Kapil took his 100th wicket in his 25th Test in 1980 against Pakistan when he was 21. Kapil, unlike Bumrah, had begun his Test career at the very early age of 19. The current India’s pace spearhead made his debut in January 2018 when he had just crossed 24.

And now, when Team India is touring England to play that remaining fifth Test of the series, left unfinished last year due to Covid issues, Bumrah has got a chance to lead the side after regular skipper Rohit Sharma tested positive just before the game. It was obviously an unexpected call for Bumrah, but he grabbed his chance with both hands.

Leading with style

Bumrah has always been a convention-breaker. Hardly anyone predicted him to be India’s captain when he got into the international scene. It was primarily because of the mindset of our selectors or cricket board (BCCI) that batsmen were better placed to set the field for fast bowlers than vice versa.

Kapil became an exception when he helped India lift the 1983 World Cup. He was known for changing the psyche of Indian cricketers. From a team that used to go for a draw rather than a win, Kapil transformed Indian mindsets with his measured aggression on the field.

Though Bumrah got a nickname of “Boom-Boom” early in his career, he was never compared to “Haryana Hurricane’s” all-rounder abilities. He was only compared with the former great for his bowling abilities. Bumrah has been India’s best bet when it comes to getting a breakthrough in any format of the game. He was the most feared new-ball bowler, and that was all. His batting abilities got limited exposure because of the very fact that he was sent in to bat at the very bottom of the order.

But in his very first audition as skipper of Team India, Bumrah hit a world record of scoring 29 runs off an over of Test cricket. The sufferer was England’s new-ball bowler, Stuart Broad, and the celebrations were all around the cricket world. In fact, Broad gave 35 runs in that over, including those six extras. Before Bumrah’s masterclass, 28 runs were the most conceded in an over in Test cricket, with Robin Peterson, Joe Root and James Anderson sharing the dubious honour.

The pace bowler, who has been leading India since Kapil in 1987, was obviously out there at the Edgbaston ground to prove a point to all those who have a set mindset about his breed of players.

He might not get a chance to lead India sooner as Rohit is ready to come into action, but Bumrah has already left his mark on the field.

His first day as Test captain started on a wrong note…by losing the toss. But the rest was like a dream. When his top batting order collapsed, Rishabh Pant played the innings of his life alongside Ravindra Jadeja. The two smashed English attacks all over the park to put India in the driving seat.

And when his own turn came with the bat, he ended up overshooting expectations spectacularly. Soon, he was back with a red cherry in hand, doing what he does best. While one of his incoming deliveries trapped the English opener, two others were edged to the slip cordon, firmly tilting the game in India’s favour.

India is firmly in the driving seat to win this historic Test series and so is Bumrah to get his name in the history books as the person who defeated (if that happens over the remaining days) an in-form England side – the same home side that defeated the first-ever World Test Championship winner, New Zealand, comprehensively only a week back.

Friendly captain

The promotion of Bumrah to captaincy is a deserved reward for an attack bowler who has been consistently contributing to India’s progress as the No. 1 team in all formats for the last six years.

He has helped India rewrite a new definition of having a pace-bowler country. For a team traditionally known for their all-spin attack, Bumrah has formed a lethal pace attack along with the other speedsters in the country. Be it Mohammad Shami or Ishant Sharma or Umesh Yadav or Bhuvneshwar Kumar or now Mohammed Siraj, Bumrah has been the backbone of the team’s success on any kind of surface.

His short run-up is enough to produce a 140-kph speed consistently. But it is his erratic bowling action that raises questions from opposition batters. He’s not lightning-quick nor is he a great mover of the ball, but his strength lies in his awkward probing action.

Australia has already invested in their speedster, Pat Cummins, who is loved by his teammates for his easy-going style. Not to forget that Cummins has also emerged as the leading all-rounder ever since taking over the captaincy. His batting has blossomed remarkably under the pressure of leading his national side.

Bumrah is no different. Though he is just a make-shift skipper for five days, his style of captaincy is so far admired by all. He is friendly with his teammates, open to any kind of suggestion, but most importantly, respected by the opposition.

He brings out a gentleness in his approach. There is no excessive chest-thumping, no extraordinary facial expressions for TV cameras, just a gentle smile and small celebrations of success. His style of captaining is far different from that of Virat Kohli.

But it’s just too early to judge him on just one success (if that comes). Captaincy should be evaluated over time and at various stages of stress. In the past, the likes of Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Shaun Pollock, Jason Holder, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were only judged after they got enough opportunities to show their leadership skills.

Bumrah is not going to get India’s mantle any sooner with Rohit Sharma or KL Rahul there as the chosen ones by cricket administrators. But any injury or workload management could get him another opportunity. Since the start of 2020, Rohit has missed three out of eight Test series, while Rahul has played just two. Bumrah has an age advantage over the two and thus has missed out only once during this time period.

Kapil has neither missed a Test due to injury nor has he overstepped even during the nets. Not to forget, the Haryana great scored over 5,000 Test runs besides taking 434 wickets.

Bumrah, on the other hand, has already suffered an injury due to his unorthodox or unconventional style of bowling action. He has been bowling no-balls in Tests and has a lot to prove as a batter.

But he has still been putting in impactful performances for India to win games in all formats.

With Rohit reaching 36 and Rahul getting injured frequently, Bumrah has to be ready for this next big test. Assuming his body can handle the extra weight!

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Chander Shekhar Luthra
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