From the sublime and mellifluous Rohit Sharma to the Vitruvian sharp angled perfection of Jasprit Bumrah, Indian cricket team’s two premier skills have been showered with heady praise this last month.
Bumrah stops the traffic
Two years ago, when Jasprit Bumrah was young to international cricket, when he was yet to attain world renown, Jaipur Police had a distasteful jibe at his tendency to over-step. They hung a billboard inscribed with what they thought was a funny caption, which read thus: “Don’t cross the line, it can be costly.” This was after his no-balled dismissal of Fakhar Zaman in the Champions Trophy final, wherein the Pakistani opener went onto score a hundred. Bumrah, not one to usually lose his cool all too easily, was visibly irritated and demanded an apology, after which the ad was swiftly removed.
It’s uncertain and unlikely that the English media had ever stumbled on this the incident, but Telegraph’s veteran scribe Scyld Berry did find a connection between Bumrah’s action and a traffic policeman’s signaling. And so he wrote: “Bumrah, when he ambles to the bowling crease, is like a policeman who raises his rigid right arm to stop the traffic.”
He then dwells on his run-up. “Plenty of India’s opening bowlers have operated with a run-up of Bumrah’s length, but they were half the pace, like Sunil Gavaskar, or the Nawab of Pataudi, or Eknath Solkar,” wrote Berry. The Guardian’s Ali Martin, in the column ‘Six players to watch out for’ was more descriptive: “Bumrah’s pace and accuracy caught the eye, generated from a quirky approach that sees him canter to the crease like a dressage horse before a ramrod straight bowling arm morphs into a bullwhip, lashing the ball down north of 85mph.” They’d done their bit of number-crunching too. “Since the last World Cup no pace bowler, anywhere in the world, has beaten the bat so often in ODIs as Bumrah, who does it once per over on average. That is some stat. It means that when Bumrah takes the ball, the batsmen are playing and missing and liable to get out at any moment. In addition, CricViz calculate that 32 per cent of the shots played at Bumrah in this World Cup have been “false shots”, and only the Kiwi Express Lockie Ferguson has prompted a higher percentage. A lot of batsmen, especially at the end of an innings, are thrashing at air or miscuing,” Berry continued waxing eloquent.
This time, though, it’s less likely that Bumrah would be peeved by the traffic policeman comparison. Suffice it to say that Bumrah has brought the whole traffic of batsmen in this World Cup to a halt.
Play it again, Sharma!
While Indian cricket fans worship the “effortlessness” of graceful batsmen, the English swoon over “orthodoxy”. That explains the scenes at Birmingham the other day, when Rohit Sharma’s 100 was greeted by a 100 per cent standing ovation – both set of supporters, for that one moment, uniting in acknowledging the work of art.
Of late, English cricketers have whole-heartedly adopted the modern brand of batsmanship that is more brutal and less beautiful. Jason Roy, Johnny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler don’t have the strokes that would melt the heart of those who spent sunny delirious afternoons watching David Gower.
Sharma, a throwback, would have reminded them of the era when batsmen were kind towards the ball, merely guiding it towards the boundary. This sentiment stood out in The Times report that appeared after Sharma’s hundred against Pakistan.
“Sharma’s great gift is to make opening the batting in the one-day game look deceptively simple. There is a singular pressure on opening batsmen, facing the new ball in the powerplay overs, to maintain a rapid scoring rate and Sharma manages to do so while looking entirely unhurried. He is a strong man, with broad shoulders, but always seems to be stroking rather than striking the ball.”
And then came the orthodoxy. “The real joy of Sharma’s success is that he is so reassuringly orthodox, both in terms of the strokeplay he employs and the manner in which he paces his innings. At a time when so many of the game’s old orthodoxies are under threat, when power is overcoming precision, when innovative batsmen are adding ever more improbable shots to the lexicon, the finest opening batsman in 50-over cricket is excelling through traditional virtues,” goes the gush.
In The Telegraph, Isabelle Westbury marvels over Rohit Sharma’s penchant for delivering on big occasions. In an article titled, “Rohit Sharma: Made in India, moulded by the IPL, and the perfect man for the big occasion”, Westbury talks about how Sharma’s career has neither been easy nor consistent, and points out the impact IPL has had on him as a player and leader.
But it’s his orthodoxy and maturity that the writer admires. She notes how Mohammad Amir had made Sharma his bunny by dismissing him in two successive meetings in 2017.
“But Sharma now has a game plan. With the experience of more than 200 ODIs behind him, he was happy to score just five runs against the eight Amir deliveries he faced. Of his 27 balls from Hasan Ali, by contrast, Sharma pummelled 42. This is a man who knew who he wanted to face, so he did, and prospered,” she writes.
Sharma’s ability to ‘carefully’ use his skills have stood out in an era of white-ball cricket where ‘destructive, experimental innings are the new talking points.’ “This is why, perhaps, Sharma is so endearing: clever tricks and nifty flicks are a last resort. A mother or father with a child in tow is comfortable explaining the beauty of Sharma’s orthodoxy because his clean-striking and classic timing provide a display which spans the generations.”
A mutant version of greats
Apart from his unorthodox action and his pin-point accuracy what makes Jasprit Bumrah difficult to play is his different release points, writes The Independent’s Jonathan Liew. He is not one bowler but a mutant form of some of the best fast bowlers, the writer suggests.
“The elbow hyper-extends, delaying the release for a crucial fraction of a second. And here’s the thing: you can’t even line up his release point, because it’s constantly shifting across the crease, one ball Makhaya Ntini, the next ball Brett Lee, the next Waqar Younis, a visual collage of all the great fast bowlers that Bumrah would watch goggle-eyed in his front room as a cricket-obsessed child.”
“So to describe Bumrah as the world’s greatest all-format fast bowler — an accolade that only Kagiso Rabada would seriously challenge — is actually an oversimplification. Bumrah isn’t just one of the world’s great fast bowlers, he’s several of them…” This was after Bumrah picked up 2 for 35 in India’s World Cup opener against South Africa.
Gorgeous, terrifying Bumrah
“It was gorgeous. It was terrifying. It was Jasprit Bumrah.” Ben Jones, an analyst with CricViz website, indulges himself in a bit of Bumrah worship in his in-depth dissection of the Indian pacer’s style and effectiveness. Jones romanticizes one ball in particular – the slow, dipping yorker to Ben Stokes – calling it even more emphatic than Mitchell Starc’s scorching yorker that dismissed the England all-rounder. “It made you pause and properly try to empathise. How would I play that?” Jones writes. “The ball dipped like nothing you’ve seen.”
The piece, written before India’s match against Bangladesh, notes that Bumrah has bowled 39 yorkers in the last 12 months at the death. At the same time, though, it points out that the yorker isn’t his only weapon.
“Whilst the other bowlers we discuss in this context take wickets almost exclusively with the yorker, Bumrah mixes it up. His bouncer is sharp, his good length ball can swing and nick you off. He can hurt you every which way,” the report states.
Which is why Jones declares that Bumrah’s bowling is more valuable to India than his new-ball partner Mohammad Shami’s.
“He’s in the sort of form you dream of as a fast bowler. His stuttering run-up never looks fluent, and Bumrah never looks as if everything is working well – but when the ball is released, it’s a kind of epiphany. Everything before just melts away, and what you’re left with is the perfect white ball bowler. Today, he never looked perfect running up to delivery the ball, and never looked less than perfect when he delivered it,” Jones writes.
He stops short of calling him the best bowler around right now. “But Jasprit Bumrah could be on his way to being the best death bowler ever,” Jones concludes.
Rohit’s drop will cost the WC
Two trends have emerged from this World Cup with Rohit Sharma playing the central role. It continued again in India’s win over Bangladesh. “Sharma being dropped early, and Sharma making a century. Three times during his four centuries, Sharma has been reprieved in single figures,” observed The Telegraph UK.
The right-handed opener was dropped on 1 against South Africa and ended up scoring an unbeaten 122. Against England, he was put down on four and went on to score 102. Against Bangladesh, he was dropped on 9 and then scored a man-of-the-match award winning 104. The only unblemished ton for him so far came in the 140 he scored against Pakistan.
That dropped catch could easily have been the moment that saved India the match, especially as they came against a Bangladesh team that had been, successfully, punching above their weight.
Read The Guardian report:
“Things might have been so different had Tamim Iqbal not dropped a regulation chance at deep midwicket off Mustafizur Rahman when Sharma was on nine. He went on to make 104 during a 180-run opening stand with KL Rahul.”
“Despite a decent comeback from Bangladesh’s bowlers,” the story continued, “the 95 runs Sharma added afterwards proved the deciding factor in this match given India’s margin of victory was 28 runs.” Sharma’s knock now takes him to the top of the leaderboard for the most runs scored at this World Cup, 544. Now with the semi-finals looming, dropping Sharma could well and truly be as good as ‘dropping the World Cup.’
Yuvi joins everyone hailing Rohit
After Rohit Sharma hit his fourth hundred of the World Cup, former Indian player Yuvraj Singh tweeted, “And @ImRo45 walks closer to the Icc mos trophy #hitman you beauty … well played champion !!!”. Sharma, who now has 544 runs in this World Cup and is the leading run getter in this edition, is only two runs ahead of Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan. Even though Bangladesh’s World Cup campaign will end after their match against Pakistan on Friday, Hasan, who has 11 wickets in the tournament so far, is expected to add more to his tally and can prove Yuvraj Singh’s prediction about Sharma bagging man of the tournament trophy wrong.
Singh, who was adjudged as the player of the tournament in the 2011 edition with 362 runs and 15 wickets, seemed to have forgotten Hasan’s feat of becoming the only player with more than 500 runs and more than 10 wickets in a single World Cup. Since the award was started in 1992, three players not from the champion team have been given the award. New Zealand captain Martin Crowe won the award in 1992 with 456 runs despite the fact that the Kiwis lost in the semi-finals. In 1999 World Cup, Lance Klusener won the award with 281 runs and 17 wickets while in 2003 World Cup, Sachin Tendulkar won the award with a total of 673 runs and two wickets. ens