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India vs South Africa 2021-22, 3rd Test: Jasprit Bumrah Back to Where it All Began

By: Feroz Khan

Cricketnext

Last Updated: January 10, 2022, 16:50 IST

Jasprit Bumrah is counted among the world's best. (AFP Photo)

Jasprit Bumrah is counted among the world's best. (AFP Photo)

Three years after making his debut, he is back at Cape Town, the venue where the world first caught the glimpse of Jasprit Bumrah, the Test bowler.

The meteoric rise of Jasprit Bumrah is well-documented. A man of his action and build would, at first sight, pass off as a bowler who bowls military pace at best. However, he is anything but your typical medium-pacer that Indian team has been known to produce in plenty.

An unorthodox – slingy - action makes Bumrah an instant attraction. And a mere glance at his bowling record evokes surprise. A bowler of his disposition is a novelty, generates curiosity and create discomfort to batters initially. However, once decoded or familiarity has had, the challenge gets stiffer and perhaps difficult to sustain. Bowlers with better, repeatable action have perished. But Bumrah is cut from a different cloth.

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He evoked cricketing world’s collective curiosity in 2013 when making his IPL debut for Mumbai Indians and perhaps even a little admonition from fans for his wild celebration after dismissing a certain Virat Kohli in his very first over. That baby face 19-year-something has today matured into a world-class operator who has been admired by one and sundry for his craft.

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His swift rise in international cricket hasn’t been a joyride. There’s been self-doubts aplenty even when others seemed confident of his future greatness. There was frustration at chances not coming his way. There was even a plan to shift his base overseas and start a life far away from cricket after seeds of disillusionment were sown in his mind. But to his credit, the boy from Ahmedabad fought hard and when the opportunity fell, he made it count.

Nearly five years since his IPL debut, Bumrah was marking his run-up in South Africa’s Cape Town for his Test debut. He had already played plenty of white-ball cricket for India by then including the 2016 T20 World Cup. And in between battled a knee injury to chart a successful comeback to first-class cricket which solidified his belief in himself.

At Cape Town, Bumrah didn’t wait long for his first Test wicket. An inside edge guided the ball onto the stumps and AB de Villiers became his maiden wicket in the format. He would take four in the first Test, three in the second and in in the third contest at Johannesburg, picked up his maiden fifer for a match-winning haul of seven wickets.

Since then, the 28-year-old has collected 107 wickets in 26 Tests at an average of 23.24 including six five-wicket hauls. He has toured England, Australia, the Caribbean Islands, New Zealand and has picked wickets everywhere. Conditions don’t matter to him. His action, ability to swing both ways, skill to produce yorkers with unreal consistency and a mean bouncer makes him a complete package and a captain’s dream.

In Kingston, he became the third ever Indian bowler to bag a Test hat-trick. At Melbourne, in the Boxing Day Test of 2018, his match-haul of 9/86 drove India to a famous win.

The ongoing tour of South Africa so far has turned out to be a mixed affair for him though. In Centurion, he was excellent. In Johannesburg, he went missing. Cape Town, the venue of the third and final Test and also the series-decider, holds an important place in his career for here was where Bumrah the Test bowler took his first steps. And he would want to channel those memories to silence his critics.

The picture hasn’t been all rosy though. Time and again, doubts have been raised over his longevity. Bumrah’s unusual action has been one of his biggest strengths but also a source of doubts for many including Michael Holding who feels it makes him injury prone.

There seems to be some grain of truth behind this claim. In 2019, Bumrah was diagnosed with a stress fracture of his lower back. There were contradicting views. A former India physio suggested the bowler modify his action. Ashish Nehra rejected any connection between his action and the stress fracture. Whatever may be the cause, that issue resulted in Bumrah missing three consecutive international series during his rehabilitation.

While there hasn’t been any major setback since his stress fracture, it’s an unstated fact that Bumrah or any other cricketer who is an all-format star, needs workload management. The Indian cricket board has also started taking note of it and taken steps to ensure players don’t suffer mental or physical burnout.

The life of a fast bowler is thrilling but fraught with danger. And Bumrah, a rare gem, needs to be handled with care. Indian cricket in particular, and the world cricket in general, will be the richer for it.

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first published:January 10, 2022, 16:50 IST
last updated:January 10, 2022, 16:50 IST