As far as destinies go, this was as filmy as it could be. Jasprit Bumrah was supposed to fly to Adelaide with the remaining members of the T20 squad, but the Indian board couldn’t find him a seat in the flight. So, it was decided that he will go to Sydney a day before India’s fifth ODI and will travel with the T20 teammates who are also part of the ODIs.
Barely would Bumrah have thought that he will make his international debut in the first T20 in Adelaide, three days later. But then he was handed out the Indian cap in Sydney itself, as Bhuvneshwar Kumar was declared unfit due to a fracture on his left-hand thumb. The next option was Barinder Sran, but MS Dhoni instead chose the Gujarat pacer, who wasn’t even in the ODI squad.
But rather than being petrified by the occasion the 22-year-old gave a good account of himself and his craft, as he stood out among the rest of the bowlers in another high-scoring game, conceding only 40 runs in 10 overs, while his more experienced colleagues leaked six or more runs an over. His unorthodox action-open chested and with a non-leading left-arm-allied with decent pace made him a difficult proposition for Australian batsmen. Skipper Steven Smith even conceded he was quicker than one thought. His inswinger, coming from an unusual angle wide off the crease and with a spangled hand movement, made him difficult to read.
So on Saturday, Bumrah, who came to spotlight when he played for Mumbai Indians against Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2013, remained a mystery. His maiden wicket was Smith, caught at mid-wicket, before he produced a perfect yorker, something his friends had used sparingly in the series, to nail James Faulkner. In all, he bowled 11 yorkers.Moreover, he held his nerves at the death too, the 49th over he bowled letting just three runs.
As importantly, he got consistent bounce from the pitch and it took Australians time to understand his wares. And it was not as if he was a complete mystery for them, as many of them have played or faced him in the IPL. He also remained a point of discussion in the commentators’ box and all experts felt he was quicker than what people thought from far off.
When he first burst into the scene, many would have hastily written him off as a one-match wonder, like many other bowlers with an unorthodox action. But Bumrah has remained a consistent performer in domestic championships, plucking 64 wickets in 18 first-class games at an average of 25.01, besides being a regular fixture of the India A squad.
However, at the end of 2014, Bumrah sustained a knee injury on his left leg, which took four and a half months to fully heal. He though was back in the squad for the 2015 season, in which he took 21 wickets in eight Ranji matches. But it was his consistency in the Vijay Hazare Trophy (21 wickets in nine matches) that caught the selectors’ eyes. His standout performance came against Delhi in the final, when he dismissed Unmukt Chand and then ran through the tail, finishing with figures of 5 for 28. Thus he presented a strong case for his inclusion in limited-over versions.
The making of Bumrah, who lost his father when he was seven, too is an absorbing narrative. Back in Ahmedabad, he started off playing tennis-ball cricket, and he soon gained the reputation of bowling only yorkers. He soon approached his school (Nirman High School) coach Kishore Trivedi, saying he was keen on getting into the school team. Seeing his enthusiasm, Trivedi gave him an appraising look and asked him to bowl at the nets.
With a smallish run-up, as prelude to a very unusual action, Bumrah,13 then, bowled with the sort of pace that was tough to handle in U-14 age category. The veteran coach, who is the father of medium pacer Siddharth Trivedi, was impressed with his action, which he dubbed weird nevertheless. And he took him under the wings.
While still in school, Trivedi made Bumrah bowl at U-16 boys and was adjudged unplayable there too. On cements tracks, he was tough to handle and when he bowled on matting wickets, batsmen just couldn’t play him. Even his teammates feared to face him.
But still there was a problem. His wrist used to bend a bit, which might have created problems in future. His coach didn’t change his action but made minor adjustments. His run-up was increased by a few strides and Bumrah had to get the line right. Many felt he should change the action but Trivedi was reluctant. He is a natural and there was no point in making drastic changes, the coach realised. “It would’ve led him nowhere,” Trivedi explains.
Soon, Bumrah was picked for the Gujarat U-16 side. Even there he was ambitious. His mother Daljit, the junior section principal at Nirman High School, recalled a day when he came home upset. He had taken seven wickets but still didn’t find a place in the GCA U-19 side. She was even slightly concerned of his academics. “I had told him to keep studies as a back-up because cricket was a risky sport to pick as profession. However, after few games he was picked,” she recollects.
Later, during his stint with Mumbai Indians, Bumrah picked the brains of Lasith Malinga, who advised him to not change anything as batsmen are not used to such an action. And his advice is paying off.