Its a proven fact that an essential attribute to be a good IPL talent scout is to have an eye for the unusual. Last night,Mumbai Indians coach John Wright showed that he had that vision. About a week before season 6 commenced,Wright had ventured to the outskirts of Ahmedabad to watch Mumbai play Gujarat in a domestic T20 game at Motera. After the game,he convinced the MI management to include in the squad Jasprit Bumrah,a frail-looking 19-year-old pacer.
The last-minute signing certainly wasnt because of the teenagers figures that day,which read 0/27. What had caught Wrights eye was Bumrahs deceptive pace,disconcerting bounce off the pitch,unforeseen inward movement and,most importantly,a ramrod straight bowling arm that didnt bend even in his run-up. In a nutshell,he was completely unconventional,a kind that has enjoyed staggering IPL success.
Bumrah shouldnt be confused with those from the mystery tribe. He is from the freaky action clan,a group of cricketers whose limbs didnt hear what their coaches said. While the Mystery Tribe Hall of Fame had Sunil Narine and Ajantha Mendis,the Freaky Action Clan had in their ranks top performers like slinger Lasith Malinga and the hop-skip,wrong-footed Sohail Tanvir.
The IPL format provides a fertile ground for the likes of Bumrah to grow. With seven different sets of batsmen to bowl at,the novelty value doesnt fade fast. In a conventional ODI series,the element of surprise wouldnt last long. Video analysts do prepare players for unorthodox actions but it still takes time to adjust to seeing the ball emerge from a strangle tangle of limbs. In T20 games,with each bowler allowed a maximum of four overs and with no time to develop a taste for the unusual flavours dished out,the freaky chakra is tough to play.
IPL has seen Bumrah-like early success in the past. Shane Warne effectively used Kamran Khan,the boy from Azamgarh with a slingy action,as his bolt-from-the-blue weapon for an entire season. But since Kamran was a fairly everyday bowler once the ball left his hand,he quickly went back to obscurity.
Young Bumrah,though,shouldnt lose heart. In his own dressing room is Malinga,who with his speed,accuracy,the sharp short ball,the stinging yorker and the sly slower ball has proved that he isnt merely a freak show.
(Sandeep is the National Sports Editor based in New Delhi)firstname.lastname@example.org