Shattering perceptions, Jasprit Bumrah impresses purists with relentless approach
Jasprit Bumrah swung the match in India's favour. (Twitter Image)

ADELAIDE: Jasprit Bumrah will never be accused of being a classicist. Indeed, it is one of the great surprises of Indian cricket that he has come this far despite being as far removed from the basic impression of a fast bowler as can be imagined.

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A few short steps, a bounding run-up unlikely to be described as balletic or graceful, both hands going up almost simultaneously at the point of delivery, anything but side-on. Bumrah should really not be playing Test cricket, if the traditional coaches have their say. And yet here he is, not just playing, but playing quite successfully too, thank you.

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John Wright’s contribution to Indian cricket is immeasurable. The professionalism across disciplines that is taken for granted today was first, tentatively, introduced to the system by the former New Zealand skipper who, in late 2000, took charge as India’s first overseas coach. Wright changed the mindset from individual to team, and masterminded some of India’s greatest triumphs, not least against Australia at the Eden Gardens in that 2001 Test, and in Adelaide two and a half years later despite the hosts amassing 556 in the first innings.

In as much as the grumpy but affable Kiwi left his imprint as coach, he is still a wonderful servant of the game in the country that has taken him to heart as much as he has it. In his role as talent spotter for Mumbai Indians, he chanced upon this gangly, awkward young fella on one of his several visits across the country and, after enquiring about his antecedents, rang Parthiv Patel to find out more about ‘this kid’.

Fast-tracked into the IPL set-up, Bumrah’s progress up the charts has been steadily remarkable. Despite his action which might indicate that he can only bring the ball into the right-hand batsman, Bumrah showed early that he could get it to straighten too and occasionally even take it away. He came armed with a brilliant yorker and electric changes of pace, both of which were further harnessed by the wisdom and practical knowledge of Lasith Malinga, the famed Sri Lankan death-overs specialist.

Bumrah was for long considered a white-ball specialist, perfectly suited to the 20-over shootout and the more stately 50-over game, even though he had great returns in red-ball cricket and was instrumental in Gujarat’s march to the Ranji Trophy title in the 2016-17 season. However, his progress was so remarkable and the skill-sets he brought so unique that he couldn’t be kept out of the Test squad for long.

His breakthrough came in South Africa at the start of the year when he was thrust into the Newlands cauldron. Understandably nervous and consequently profligate in the first innings in Cape Town when he leaked 73 from his 19 overs, he calmed down to finish with three for 39 in 11.2 overs in the second. By his third Test, at the Wanderers, he was in his element, snaffling five for 54 in the first innings and finishing with seven for 111 for the match as India came away with a consolation victory.

A thumb injury sustained in Ireland kept him out of the first two England Tests but when he returned, he immediately found rhythm and penetration, picking up a second five-wicket haul in Nottingham and finishing with 14 wickets from three Tests.

Well rested after being given time off during the Tests against Windies at home, Bumrah turned on the magic at the Adelaide Oval in the first Test against Australia. One of the things he has mastered is his control with the red ball. His parsimony complemented his ability to hustle batsmen with pace and bowl a heavy ball from a loping, hardly momentum-generating run-up, or get it to do just that little bit in the air or on pitching to keep drawing mistakes at opportune moments.

The Adelaide Test was Bumrah’s seventh. Remarkably, they have all come overseas, which partly explains 34 scalps at 24.44, and a wicket every eight and a half overs. But Bumrah has shown himself to be more than just a condition-reliant bowler. His speed through the air – he regularly bowls at over 140 kmph and bowled the fastest ball of the first Test, stopping the gun at 153 kmph – means even on the flattest of surfaces, he forever brooks careful watching.

Totally against the norms of how pitches are supposed to pan out, the Adelaide strip was at its flattest on Monday (December 10), the final day. The pace had been sucked out of the drop-in deck, the cracks bone-headedly refused to open up, the bounce was spongy, the time at the batsman’s disposal more than adequate. The spirit of Bumrah wasn’t going to be denied, though. His accuracy was metronomic – a fair few edges combined to bolster his economy to a still impressive 2.83 across 24 overs – and the questions he asked consistent and several. The well-set Shaun Marsh was the first to fail the examination.

Batting with all the comfort in the world, the left-handed had occupied the crease for four hours and seen off 165 deliveries when Bumrah foxed him with a ball that came in from round the stumps, but changed direction late on pitching, taking the outside edge through to Rishabh Pant. It was a massive strike at a crucial time, driving a massive dagger into Aussie hearts. A well-directed bouncer accounted for Tim Paine, a tempting widish full ball lured the otherwise stubborn Pat Cummins to his doom. Three different deliveries, three vastly different catches behind the sticks, but the same spirit-lifting result. Cheteshwar Pujara was the hero among heroes in the Adelaide win; Bumrah, with a combined six for 115, wasn’t far behind, no sir.