Somewhere in the stands at the Bay Oval, a fan kept waving a banner that read: “Jasprit Bumrah is back.” He was back a fortnight ago, playing an influential but less spectacular role in defining the T20I series, but it was the yorker that blasted Daryll Mitchell’s stumps that entrenched his comeback in the mind of spectators. Just like Sachin Tendulkar was never quite back until he unfurled the magical straight drive, or Viv Richards until he flicked, or Virat Kohli until he cover-drove.
There is always a worry when a bowler returns from injury, especially with someone like Bumrah, who has quirky delivery strides and a quirkier release. Has he lost pace? Has he lost the zip? Has he lost the rhythm? Will he go full pelt? All those fears swirl. Bumrah allayed the fears with the perfect yorker. Or a yorker that was bowling perfection. Laser-guided, nuclear-tipped perfection. Mitchell could do nothing. Perfect release, perfect seam position, perfect curl, perfect landing, and perfect result. Not a millimetre either way.
Staggeringly, the seam hardly wobbled until it dropped right under Mitchell’s feet. Throughout its travel, it was straight and upright — too textbook-ish to be real. How silly when bowlers complain of the breeze making the ball wobble too much in New Zealand. All along, Mitchell knew what was coming his way. Burmah was setting him up for the yorker. Still, he couldn’t prevent it. The batsman shortened his back-swing, pressed forward a bit. Still, he couldn’t bring his bat down in time. He wouldn’t have looked so silly had he attempted a wild heave and got himself out.
While this was Bumrah’s most spectacular delivery of the series — and his most telling performance of the series — he has been influencing matches in less eye-catchy ways. In the first game, his last two overs leaked only 16 runs, four off those from an edged boundary.
In a total of 203 on a small ground, Bumrah maintained an economy rate of less than eight. In the next, he conceded only 21 off his four. Even in the third, where he suffered at the hands of Kane Williamson, he didn’t lose his smile or composure. Hit three times by the New Zealand skipper for boundaries in one over, he didn’t wither away. He sprung with a couple of yorkers, a dot ball and a two. Precious when you look back at the match that went to the Super Over.
It was a rare off day — like all great players, those days come few and far between. His figures in the next two games read thus: 4-0-20-0 and 4-1-13-3. In eight T20 overs, he has conceded only 33 runs while taking three wickets, phenomenal figures in most part of the world and miraculous on the small grounds of New Zealand. To do that repeatedly in the Powerplay and at the death, where bowlers, no matter how good they are, are most prone to get hit, is a phenomenal feat in itself.
Behind the figures lies Bumrah’s deception. While it’s the yorker that’s his most defining variety in the shorter version, Bumrah can’t be defined by that one weapon. Take for instance the Martin Guptill wicket on Sunday.
There seemed nothing extraordinary in the delivery, a classic case of a batsman missing the line. An angled-in delivery missed altogether. Dissect further and one realises how the ball had fractionally held its line after pitching. So late and indiscernible the movement was that Guptill was surprised, like he was in the previous game as well, where he tried to whip what seemed like an incoming delivery before it held marginally held the line.
Then the minor alterations of lines. For instance, Bumrah prefers a wider line for his slower balls (usually scrambled-seam off-cutters). Batsmen expect slower balls at the death from straighter lines. Bowlers prefer that line because of the probability of a wicket if the batsman misses it. But the wider the slower ball goes, the more difficult it becomes to hit. It also prevents batsmen from backing away and opening up the off-side. Admitted Tim Seifert the other day: “Normally, death bowlers get into straighter lines, plus yorkers and mix it with chest-height bouncers. He kind of changes things a lot and is tougher to play.”
It’s precisely the reason Bumrah is often un-negotiable — because he has not only the variations but also variations of variations. There’s the side-of-the-hand slower ball plus the scrambled-seam off-cutter. There’s the ball that skids off back of a length, and there’s also the ball that explodes into the rib-cage from the same length.
In T20Is, he hardly exhibits his full range. He chooses weapons on mood and need. The yorker was his favourite on Sunday— another piercing one blasted Tim Southee’s stumps. And then he jogged back to the boundary rope, his ardent supporter kept waving that banner which read: “Bumrah is back!”
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