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The curious case of Jasprit Bumrah

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Jasprit_Bumrah_India_cricketA Jaipur Traffic Police campaign promoting road safety came at the expense of Jasprit Bumrah's ill-fated no-ball in the finals of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 against Pakistan. The hoarding, which appeared on streets and on Twitter, came in for criticism with Bumrah himself expressing disappointment with the Tweet.

There is no doubting that Bumrah overstepping the crease will go down in the history of cricket as the moment that turned the finals of the Champions Trophy. Fakhar Zaman, a virtual unknown at the start of the tournament, had turned out to be Pakistan's trump card in the build up to the final and proved as much when he blitzed the Indian attack to all corners of the ground. Bumrah had him caught behind pretty early in his innings only for the umpire to call a no-ball, much to the dismay of Indian fans.

The misdirected hatred

Indian fans can be pretty harsh and cruel. The biggest stars of Indian cricket have endured the wrath of the Indian public who resort to burning photos of their idols or pelting their houses with stones every time they return empty handed from tournaments. This was bound to be even worse. It was the finals of the tournament and the opposition was that uncelebrated neighbour, Pakistan, who pounced on the opportunity to thump them in the finals.

Yet, one no-ball can never be the reason behind a team’s loss. But Bumrah was an easy target for the heartbroken, revenge-seeking Indian fans. He had let off the Man of the Final, Fakhar Zaman, with his untimely no-ball. He had handed over Pakistan the finals of the Champions Trophy. More importantly, he was a national shame. Hatred directed at Bumrah flew in from all corners but was it justified?

Here was a young fast bowler who had mastered the art of nailing a perfect yorker and took upon himself the responsibility of opening the bowling attack when India needed to accommodate an extra spinner in Ravichandran Ashwin. Bumrah was hard working, passionate and, most importantly, never shrugged off responsibility.

He was seen as a one-dimensional bowler in ODIs with his death bowling ability the only plus point. However, Bumrah proved his critics wrong in the tournament by opening the bowling attack with success. The task was by no means easy.

Against South Africa, he was faced by Quinton de Kock, a flamboyant stroke making opener who had smashed five hundreds in nine ODIs against India. Not only did Bumrah dry out the runs but he kept things so tight that de Kock scored a mere four runs in his area of strength, square of the wicket. The Mumbai Indians bowler was accurate with his lines and rarely gave any width to the batsmen. When he returned at the death, he had a completely different plan up his sleeve and mixed his yorkers and slower balls with a sharp bouncer.

In the semi-finals, Tamim Iqbal presented another stiff challenge and Bumrah was up to the task. A usually brisk scorer, Tamim barely got anything to latch on in the first 15 overs of the innings. Bumrah’s economy in the whole tournament was 5.00. He was incisive, impressive and sharp till the finals.

One mistake, and his whole world falls apart. He is suddenly the poster boy for all the wrong reasons.

His ODI record thus far speaks volumes about the kind of player he is. In 16 ODIs, Bumrah has 26 wickets at an average of 26.42 and economy of 4.92. During times of soaring run rates and big bats, Bumrah's economy is on par with best in the business.

If he has been good in ODIs, he has been outstanding in T20s, a format tailor-made for him. In 2016, Bumrah finished as the highest wicket-taker in T20s with 28 wickets at economy of 6.62. In the first series of 2017, against England he took five scalps in three T20s at an economy of 6.20. The stats are even more impressive when taken into account that he bowls at the death when the batsmen go wild.

Dig a bit deeper and you find that Bumrah concedes at a rate of just 6.85 in overs 16-20, which is exemplary. In a T20 against England in January he conceded just one run in the final over when England required eight to win. He has conceded at less than run a ball in the slog overs (16-20) in 17 of the 32 instances he has bowled there, underlining his proficiency at the back end of an innings. His bowling coach at Mumbai Indians, the former Kiwi fast bowler Shane Bond, is elated to have a reliable death bowler. “He is probably the best in our team to bowl the pressure overs, because he has got skills and temperament to do so”, Bond said.

If confidence and temperament are weapons, Bumrah has truck loads of them and a disgraceful no-ball ad is not something that would peg back this wonderful lad. Boom Bumrah!

 

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