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Bumrah in Test cricket?

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Jasprit_Bumrah_India_cricketIn 2013, the sight of a young Jasprit Bumrah and his unusual action trying to bamboozle batsmen amazed me. The then 20-year-old didn’t have much control over his delivery but you could watch the batsmen struggle to pick him. He had Kohli trapped in front of the stumps as his first ever IPL dismissal. While he got three wickets in that game, he ended up playing just 2 games in the whole season.

Who knew the same youngster would be leading the Indian pace attack just 4 years later. While his ability to take wickets with the new ball is laudable, more significantly he has emerged as a death overs specialist to restrict the run flow of the opposition. His variations, including off cutters, yorkers & slower ones have always managed to deceive batsmen even at the death, when they’re trying to slog.

The youngster faced a fair bit of criticism early in his career, based on the fact that he was caught overstepping quite often. The incident that created the biggest headlines came in the Champions Trophy final where he overstepped on the delivery that got Fakhar Zaman out. Zaman went on to score a century and India ended up losing the game to Pakistan. That ball will haunt Indian fans for a considerable period.

But, in my opinion, Bumrah has erased that blemish in his career with his significant performances since. His economy rate in ODIs has been 4.57 since the Champions Trophy, having taken 26 wickets at an average of 18.15. He has been careful about overstepping the line as well. Since the Champions Trophy final, he has bowled 123.2 overs and only one no ball, which came in the fifth ODI against Sri Lanka.

Not only has Bumrah come up with consistent performances, he now seems more mature as a bowler. The youngster has led the short format pace attack with admirable responsibility and established his effectiveness in the limited overs arena. Every time the situation demands quick wickets, he has been the captain’s go-to-man.

 

Now that we’ve seen him display his ability in the limited overs format, some experts have been calling for his Test selection. However, to me, it seems like Bumrah is being rushed into Tests. With a pace attack including Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav doing well there, there’s no need to cram Bumrah in the plans for the Test team. Furthermore, with the 2019 World Cup around the corner, it’s not the wisest bet to have your best limited overs bowler experiment in the traditional format.

 

Indian bowlers have had lots of form and fitness issues in the last few years. The perfect example is Mohammed Shami, who was injured for more than a year as soon as the World Cup 2015 got over. There’s also Bhuvneshwar Kumar being overbowled in the 2014 England tour to a ridiculous level. He was India’s best limited overs bowler just months before the World Cup. However, what followed was a prolonged phase of injury and loss of form. It eventually led to Bhuvi playing just one game in the entire World Cup.

While the workload can be assessed by the management, India probably won’t prefer to take the risk. With bowlers like Shami, Yadav and Ishant in the Test format, the team management would prefer the trio to play for a while and get into form rather than straining Bumrah. India have a long season ahead and his presence in all the formats will only end up wearing him out.

What also seems ideal to me is to include him in the tour of England later next year and maybe try him for a Test match or two. While the prospect of a youngster making his Test debut in overseas conditions doesn’t sound pleasing (ask Pankaj Singh), it would surely provide Bumrah an idea of the English conditions and enough time to assess how the pitches behave as useful information for the 2019 World Cup which will also be in England.

Besides that, while I do feel Bumrah deserves a shot in Test matches, it seems untimely and there are sufficient reasons to wait before giving him his chance. There’s no doubt that he may be a brilliant bowler in the longer format as well. However, at present, it would be preferable to have him focus on the shorter formats.

 

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