Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy stadium is a small ground, made for the sixer-hitters. There has been some rain in the last couple of days, and it would be interesting to see how the conditions play out but it would be surprising if the white ball doesn’t fly off the bats. India’s push for a 5-0 whitewash would probably depend on how well their bowlers, in particular Jasprit Bumrah, handles the short boundaries.
In theory, his skill sets should help him negate the smallness of the ground. A good yorker is a good yorker, regardless of the boundary distance, and much would depend on the kind of other deliveries he chooses to wield. It’s his action that you notice first. The hyper-extension of the shoulder makes his right arm remain straight, the elbows don’t bend, and it’s his wrists that whip the ball down. The entire unorthodox set up gives him the advantage of both high-arm and the whippy release.
Over the last year, he has developed a wider range, and has made enough progress to make you wonder whether he has done enough already to displace Ishant Sharma from the Test squad. No modern Indian bowler has got as much opportunities as Ishant has had, and in some ways he has been pretty lucky to retain the unlucky Ishant tag.
On the flip side, Bumrah has been tagged as a limited-over bowler. Why? Because the world has seen him strut his stuff in T20 and ODIs, and especially because of his Yorkers. No other Indian bowler has been associated with that delivery ever. Manoj Prabhakar could bowl it, Zaheer Khan did, Bhuvneshwar Kumar does it now but all the three are primarily known for swing and seam. With Bumrah, it has been as much a curse as a blessing. ‘Oh a very good yorker bowler’ and he is shrugged off after all that gushing.
RP Singh, the former India bowler and who bowled alongside Bumrah for Gujarat in the last domestic season, raves about the improvements in the bowling and says he is good for Tests. “He is no doubt India’s best limited-over bowler right now but that doesn’t mean you need to stamp him as only good for it. He has been working on his bowling, and is getting constantly better. If nurtured properly, he has the potential to be one of India’s best bowler in all formats,” Singh told The Indian Express.
Last season, Singh worked on primarily two things with Bumrah: On the lengths he bowls, and the wrist position. With the white ball, he normally hits the back of length but in that tournament, he strived hard to get his high-arm kick into the action but started to fire the balls fuller. “We worked on lengths during the season, and how to plan according to the batsman and the pitch.”
Once he got the ability to hit various lengths, and started to trust himself and his action, on hitting those areas, he started to grow in confidence. The other thing Singh worked on was getting Bumrah’s wrist positions in better positions. “To get the ball shape away from the right-hander, we did some work on getting his wrist position right.” Singh says. For a man who would go wide of the crease, and dart the ball in to the right-handed batsmen, he is now a far better user of the crease, and works the angles really well. In a domestic game, once he had removed Dhoni with a peach of a legcutter.
He has not shirked away from seeking help when needed. Before RP, there was Malinga. When he was hit around the park in the IPL in the first season, he went to Malinga. “What next? What should I do now?” and he was told that he needs more variations and perfect the ones he has. The slower one came, the bouncer was honed, and the yorker was polished – with the game awareness how to sync them together well. It would be unfair to still label him as limited-over bowler. Not that he has been fretting too much about it. “I wasn’t bothered too much about those perceptions, (of being a limited-over bowler” Bumrah told this newspaper after taking a 6-for in the Ranji semi-final. “I have played for India at such an early age and I know what I am capable of and what I need to do. I have been focusing on all-round improvement this season.”
The former bowler Javagal Srinath too has thrown in his support behind the young bowler’s ambitions. “He of course can play Test cricket. His game has grown,” says Srinath. The perception tide seems to be changing in Bumrah’s favour, and it remains to be seen how long before the selectors too change their mind. In the here and now, though, a good outing on the small ground in Bangalore can’t hurt.