It seems like every time Virat Kohli throws Jasprit Bumrah the ball he is able to do what his captain asks of him. There isn’t a bowler in world cricket who performs with Bumrah’s consistency, and it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario where the Indian quick is one day remembered as the finest fast bowler of his generation.
When you consider that Bumrah is playing in the same era as Kagiso Rabada and Pat Cummins, it certainly hits home and you realize just how special a bowler he actually is.
There is, however, one potential roadblock that could derail his journey to the summit and that is his bowling action.
In many respects, Bumrah’s success with the ball is hard to understand given how unorthodox his bowling style is. In fact, it goes against everything we have come to recognize over the years as far as a good technique for fast bowlers goes.
In the beginning
It’s always interesting to hear one of the great West Indian bowlers dissect Bumrah’s action given that these men wrote the book on fast bowling. When we look back at the archive footage of Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh, or Curtly Ambrose, it seems like these men started their run-ups in the stadium parking lot and then came through a door in the sightscreen before getting into their strides on the field. Indeed, the conventional wisdom was that to be a big scary fast bowler, you had to have a long run-up that put the fear of God into the batsman.
Well, Jasprit Bumrah doesn’t subscribe to any of that and that’s why it was so amusing to hear West Indian Ian Bishop describe everything about Bumrah’s style as “interesting”. In Bumrah’s case, he runs up from about seven yards and is still able to generate enough pace to bowl comfortably over 140kph. That is about a quarter of the run-up any of the West Indian greats took back in the day, so it’s no wonder that they find it baffling.
In fact, most of the world is quite perplexed about it given how much success Burmah has had. The 26-year-old threw the cricket manual out the window and is now on his way to becoming the finest fast bowler of his generation and therefore also, the greatest in the history of Indian cricket.
The stats speak for themselves and there isn’t a format where he doesn’t excel, whether it be Tests, ODIs or T20s. It was the latter where most thought Bumrah would specialize in after announcing it himself at the Pepsi IPL in 2014. Today, there isn’t a single fast bowler more effective than Bumrah in the shortest format. Adding to that, it seems only a matter of time before Bumrah overtakes Lasith Malinga as the IPL’s most successful bowler.
The list of the all-time leading wicket takes in the IPL is of course topped by the Sri Lankan seamer, but come to the end of Bumrah’s career, that is likely to change given his prowess at T20 level. It’s an interesting comparison actually given that Malinga and Bumrah play on the same IPL team, the Mumbai Indians, who are fancied at 4/1 to win the 2020 edition, jut behind the Chennai Super Kings who seem to be the informed tip for Indian Premier League glory next season. This sensei and student relationship, if you will, is hugely benefiting the Mumbai Indians given that they have won three of the last five IPL championships.
Under Malinga’s mentorship, Bumrah has become a world-class T20 performer, but he’s a man of many natural talents. The Indian quick is currently the seventh-best Test Bowler and second-best ODI bowler in the world. It goes without saying but there are many strings to the 26-year-old’s bow. Indeed, Bumrah is able to make the SG cricket ball sing when he has it in his hands but how long that song will last is another question.
Could there be trouble ahead?
A disappointing Test series loss to New Zealand in February was in some ways laid at the feet of Jasprit Bumrah after a few ordinary performances.
The 26-year-old also seemed to blow a bit hot and cold during Australia’s losing Qantas tour of India in early January.
The question now is being asked whether Bumrah’s unique bowling style is putting too much strain on his knees. To generate that much pace from a run-up consisting of only a couple steps then you have to be explosive at the crease, but that could come at a cost to Bumrah’s long-term career prospects. It is even unfair to ask whether he will be the same bowler at the upcoming edition of the 2020 VIVO IPL?
The knees are normally the first thing to go with fast bowlers and when they do, it’s a long way back to any sort of form or momentum. Basically, the chances of breaking down during a game are extremely high which plays a huge psychological part in how much a bowler exerts himself.
Bumrah has it all on paper and could go on to achieve everything in the game. Time, however, appears to already be catching up with him in his mid-twenties.