Before we talk about the lad with the uncanny action, a quick recap- cut to IPL 2013, and Virat Kohli was at his consistent best. He was coming off a career best unbeaten 93, his highest score then in the T20 format (he now has four centuries to his name) against the Sunrisers Hyderabad and had just taken guard against Mumbai. A nervous looking Bumrah who had donned his blue and gold jersey for the first time for the Mumbai outfit was a picture of concentration. Ball one: Short and wide and a slam over covers for four Welcome to the IPL Mr Bumrah! Ball two: An exact replay of ball one. The third ball was a consolatory dot and the fourth one was smashed for another boundary.
The scoreboard flashed one-liners that outlined Kohli’s sheer brilliance with the bat and Bumrah was sweating. It was a nightmarish first over and he wasn’t finished yet. Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard were trying their best to console the kid who was thrashed all over the park. The fifth ball though, saw the ball angle inward and strike the pads. A gut-wrenching appeal, and the raised finger from umpire C Shamshuddin meant Kohli’s brief Blitzkrieg at the crease had come to an end. What followed was a cocky send-off and all that Kohli could do was glare and take a slow trudge back to the dugout.
The Royal Challengers may have won that match, but Bumrah had his victory after scalping the prize wicket of the country’s best batsman. He went on to claim Mayank Agarwal and Karun Nair as well. His final figures read 3-0-32-3. While Kohli had dented his economy rate, the wickets showed his comeback. Bumrah played only two games that IPL, but a successful Ranji season with Gujarat earned him a Team India call-up. A tight bowling performance in Australia ensured his place in the ICC World T20 as well. Come IPL 2016, Bumrah was the second highest wicket-taker for Mumbai with 15 wickets from 14 games. His nippy pace and the accurate Yorkers made him the obvious choice to bowl at the death.
What sets Bumrah apart is the fact that he can hold his own when situations pointed South. Be it Tamim Iqbal’s sitter that he dropped and was later bludgeoned for four consecutive boundaries or during the time when AB de Villiers berserk innings lit up Wankehede to bring up his second IPL ton, Bumrah was always looking to execute what was on his dossier.
But with enough technology to crack any code, just like the TRANSLATR from Dan Brown’s bestseller, ‘The Digital Fortress,’ Bumrah too was a code that could be cracked. The best example was the way West Indian openers Evin Lewis and Johnson Charles picked him apart at Lauderhill on Saturday. Bumrah leaked 47 runs in his stipulated four overs. While the pitch ensured that the match would be a high-scoring affair, Bumrah wasn’t a victim of edges from meaty bats or raw brawn that catapulted the ball over the park, in fact, they were clean hits that were timed to near perfection.
Now it is only a matter of time before the Aussies, the English and the Proteas, who have always relied on technology to help them counter attacks set about simplifying the Bumrah conundrum. England, in particular would relish decoding Bumrah since they are the ones who claim to pay attention to detail when compared to the other cricketing nations. Be it Anderson’s secret to troubling Kohli which they claimed was a master stroke to curb India’s leading run machine from scoring or their meticulously planned diet chart during the Ashes, they have always tried to live up to what Liam Neeson said in A-Team- “Staying one step ahead of the enemy, that’s the thought behind a well-oiled plan kid.”
But on the flip side, Bumrah has time on his side. The tough temperament and the guile that he has shown in glimpses can be his biggest allies when he faces off against the Roots, the du Plessis’ and the Smiths. The biggest question though still remains. Can Bumrah hold his own or will the latest gizmos get to him before the pressure does? It is an open secret that people will come after him if he finds himself on rough waters, just like bowlers of the past who were seen as wonders and later turned to villains, thanks to one bad day at the office. Hopefully, Bumrah can conjure up some more tricks up his sleeve and stay consistent.