JASPRIT BUMRAH has just finished his nets session at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Armed with his trademark sling-arm action, the pacer displays oodles of energy during his bowling stint that lasted for over an hour. After which, he along with six others from Gujarat’s Ranji side proceed towards the centre square for the customary fielding session. The fifth round of Ranji Trophy matches will begin on Saturday, and Gujarat will take on Bengal in a crucial top-of-the-table clash here in the national capital.
Apart from the prospect of watching two in-form Ranji teams, the presence of Bumrah only increases intrigue to this highly anticipated duel. He will have happy memories from this venue. Less than a fortnight ago, the pacer played a key role in dismantling New Zealand’s batting. India would eventually go on to lose that ODI by six runs, but Bumrah’s 3/35 only illustrates his growing stature as a bowler of repute in the game’s shorter version.
Things are slightly different this time around.For starters, he will not be operating with his favourite white ball. Even the 22-yard strip will be different to the one India hosted New Zealand two weeks ago. The track is expected to be docile and full of runs — much like the high-scoring game the venue witnessed during the Punjab-Baroda game before Diwali. Going forward, the Gujarat pacer exudes confidence ahead of his season’s second Ranji game. “It’s always good to be back,” he says. “You have played so much of cricket with these guys, and you know them so well. So it feels great.” Bumrah had played Gujarat’s Ranji opener against Baroda in Jaipur. After that, he missed the next three games as he was with the senior side, playing ODIs against the Kiwis.
His unorthodox action, and the rather nonchalant manner in which he bowls the yorkers, have made him an irresistible proposition in the game’s shorter formats. It’s still early days in his career, but Bumrah has proven himself to be a match-winner in these formats due to his propensity to be a quick learner. “Bowling yorkers is like bowling a length ball. It comes with a lot of practise. But that’s not the only weapon that I rely upon. You can’t pick wickets by just bowling in the blockhole. You need to mix it up — have a slower one, and a bouncer as well,” he explains.
He knows he is a regular in India’s ODI and T20 squad, which is headed by captain MS Dhoni. Strangely enough, Bumrah has not been able to translate this success into the game’s longer formats yet. In 20 Ranji games spread across three seasons, the pacer has just 66 wickets. He concedes bowling in a four-day game has its own set of challenges. “Bowling in a four-day game is challenging because you have to try different lines and lengths, and you have to be consistent and bowl longer spells. So, in terms of fitness, it’s a test for bowlers. In essence, the longer format poses the real test for fast bowlers,” he concedes.
Bumrah reckons making the shift in formats (from short to long) is about making the mental adjustment. He, however, does not think it is such a big deal, as bowlers in world cricket will have to make the switch if they have to become a complete, all-format bowler. The pacer believes it’s much easier playing longer format after having featured in limited overs cricket. “It’s always easier to play a four-day game after an ODI. That’s because in an ODI game, you will have to try out more variations as compared to while playing in the longer format, so it’s a bit of a challenge. Having said that, in international cricket, it’s all about how well you adapt,” he adds.