The India death-over specialist is back at his best, conceding just six runs in the penultimate over of Mumbai Indians’ high-scoring clash against Kings XI Punjab.
A little under a year ago, after India were beaten by Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 final, the police in the western Indian city of Jaipur used Jasprit Bumrah’s image in an advertisement. In it, he is shown bowling a no-ball, with the message saying: “Don’t cross the line. You know it can be costly.”
The image went viral in India as it alluded to Bumrah’s no-ball, which gave a reprieve to Fakhar Zaman, the Pakistan batsman, in the final of the tournament. Zaman went on to score his maiden one-day international century as Pakistan won by 180 runs.
It’s to Bumrah’s credit that he has since drawn a line under that episode. In fact, his progress has continued at an even better clip. There have been 38 wickets in 21 ODIs since the Champions Trophy, and a further eight wickets in 10 Twenty20 Internationals.
Crucially, he also made his Test debut earlier this year during India’s tour of South Africa, returning 5/54 in the final Test in Johannesburg to help India win by 63 runs. Overall, he picked up 14 wickets in the three games.
And, not to forget, he is at No.1 in the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI Player Rankings for bowlers, well ahead of No.2 Rashid Khan. In T20Is too, he is up there at No.11.
That Bumrah is now back at his best was evident during an Indian Premier League 2018 match on Wednesday 16 May, when he, turning out for Mumbai Indians, restricted Kings XI Punjab to just six runs in the penultimate over when they needed 22 runs to win with KL Rahul in sublime form.
Rahul scored a 60-ball 94 and so long as he was in the middle, Punjab were favourites. But Bumrah’s slower ball deceived him, and as he holed out, Punjab’s chances disintegrated. The three-run victory also kept Mumbai’s play-off hopes alive.
Bumrah ended with exceptional figures of 3/15 off his four overs in a game where 369 runs were scored in 40 overs, and it was a mark of his effect on the game that in the post-match interaction, one of the questioners wondered how much fear he induced in the opposition.
“See, I was not focussing on who was scared, who was not scared. I was just focussing on what I’ve to do,” said Bumrah, a smile playing on his lips. “On a good day, when you have a clear plan, you’re able to execute whatever you want. On a good day, it worked for me. Some days, it doesn’t work.”
Respect and adulation came from his national team-mates as well. Ravichandran Ashwin, the Punjab captain, believed Bumrah was the difference on the day. “It looked it was going to be a clinical romp but credit to Bumrah – he once again proved what a good bowler he is,” he said.
And in Rohit Sharma, the Mumbai captain, the sense of relief of having someone of the quality of Bumrah to rely on in the death overs was evident.
“Bumrah has come a long way in the past two years, worked really hard on his bowling,” said Sharma. “It’s never easy to do what he does but he has taken the responsibility. Coming out there and bowling at set batsmen who are trying to finish the job – he's doing it perfectly for us.”
Bumrah may never forgive himself for that no-ball, but he has clearly left it behind and focussed on bettering his game. His mental strength is evident when he speaks about his thought processes.
“You don’t think about opinions or what is going on outside,” he said. “I always look to focus, what is there right now. I was backing my plan. You always want to bowl good overs, but some days it’s not possible, especially at the position where I bowl it’s very difficult.
“I don’t look at what has happened before, what will happen in the future. My focus is always to have a clear plan. I back my plan and I back myself in whichever situation I’m bowling in.”
In just under a year, Bumrah has come a long way.
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