Updated: September 8, 2021 9:46:34 am
A look of incredulity descended on Jonny Bairstow when a devilish reverse-swinging yorker pulverised his stumps. Even slow-motion replays wouldn’t have solved the puzzle for him later. The truth is that Jasprit Bumrah decided to do what he does — unleash a spell of greatness to become the fastest Indian pacer to reach 100 wickets, in 24 Tests, one less than it had taken Kapil Dev.
It’s interesting that he broke Dev’s record. It would be difficult to find two more different bowlers. Dev was all classical swing, smooth and athletic in his run-up, his left hand breaking out of the cloud of hand-movements at release like a synchronised swimmer. Bumrah is anti-classical, shuffles to the crease like a reticent kid pushed out to the podium, his bewilderingly non-bending bowling arm cuts arcs that interest biomechanics experts. But once the ball is set in motion, it causes devastation unparalleled in Indian bowling history.
His art is so original that it paradoxically seems as if it was designed at a lab. As if all retired bowlers got together for a chai-pe-charcha, and each put in a feature request for the ideal bowler. An action that’s hard to read, angles hard to decipher, release positions rarely seen before. He bowls furious legcutters, slow off breaks from round the stumps, slow dipping yorkers that drop like aerial bombs on batsmen’s feet, viciously late-swinging pacy yorkers that give no intimation, bouncers which are identified late by the batsmen only when they begin to rear up sharply, nipbackers that aren’t finger cut across the seam like most but somehow he twists his wrists in awkward angles and backspins the ball from hell. Cameras have recorded how he releases the ball later than most bowlers, extending the arm further than most, reducing the reaction time of the batsmen. Merely a collection of deliveries and uniqueness of action, however, doesn’t make a great bowler. It needs the immense cricketing intelligence of Bumrah to mix it all up and serve the deadliest cocktail known to the batsmen of today.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on September 8, 2021 under the title ‘Mix it like Bumrah’.