Jasprit Bumrah: India’s Unparalleled Talisman for the World Cup
If there is one cricketer along with Virat Kohli whom we must mollycoddle, it is Jasprit Bumrah. In fact, one can go as far as saying that Bumrah needs to be handled with more care than Virat Kohli.
Despite the great batsman that Kohli is, India can still find an alternative for him; someone who can deliver around 60-70 % of what Kohli, the batsman does. But the country does not have even a single bowler who can replicate the heroics of Bumrah.
If you scan the top bowlers in world cricket, apart from say a Kagiso Rabada or a Pat Cummins, you would struggle to find a bowler who can bowl at express pace and is super dependable at any juncture of the innings. What's more is that his overs at the death are absolute gold dust, and it is only once in a blue moon that he has an off day.
There is No Alternative
Bumrah has become a regular for India in T20Is, ODIs and Test cricket – spearheading the Indian bowling attack in all the three formats.
Captain Kohli expects his lead pacer to not only bowl tight lines and lengths at the start of an innings, but also pick up a couple of wickets in the Powerplay. And more often than not, the 25-year-old delivers. Kohli then also has the option of using him for a couple of overs during the middle phase and then of course, he comes back in the slog overs and puts up an absolute masterclass of death bowling.
When Bumrah suffered a freak injury while trying to stop a ball in his follow through, during the first T20I against Ireland, it was evident that India’s bowling attack was struggling to stem the flow of runs. And when he returned after missing the entire limited-overs leg and the first two Tests against England, Bumrah made an instant impact. He picked up a five-wicket haul in the second innings of the third Test at Nottingham which helped India win their first and only red-ball game on the tour.
Managing the IPL Workload
Now is when Bumrah’s workload management during the Indian Premier League becomes even more critical. Each IPL franchise will play 14 league matches followed by two or three matches in the playoffs.
In the absence of any official word from the BCCI, it is up to the Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma and the team management to ensure that Bumrah's body does not take a toll due to IPL’s tight scheduling, and he’s in the right space – mentally, physically and emotionally going into the 2019 World Cup.
Kohli had suggested at a COA meeting in November last year that India's leading pace bowlers in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, be allowed to skip the IPL in order to keep them fresh for the upcoming World Cup.
However, Rohit Sharma had then reportedly disagreed in the meeting. “If Mumbai Indians reach playoffs or finals and if Bumrah happens to be fit, then I cannot afford to rest him,” Rohit had said.
Amid such uncertainty, it would be ideal if the BCCI issues clear guidelines regarding the workload management of the players who are a part of the Indian World Cup squad.
To be Handled With Utmost Care
Bumrah's top-notch execution, especially in the death overs, was on show in the first T20I against Australia at Vizag. He was coming after a long layoff but there were no signs of lack of match practice as the pacer was right on the money from the first ball.
The MI bowler was at his most impressive in the penultimate over as he came into bowl with Australia needing 16 runs from the last two overs; an easily achievable task in the current T20 scenario. However, Bumrah exceeded expectations – one heck of a job when hopes from you are already so high. He not only conceded just 2 runs in that over, but also picked up two crucial wickets to change the face of the match. What ultimately happened in the last over was unfortunate but it does not take anything away from Bumrah's absolute brilliance.
Bumrah may not have relished the off-time that he was given during the tour of New Zealand and Australia, but it was necessary and came at a perfect time with the workload that the bowler had gone through in 2018.
Despite Mohammad Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar shedding off their rust and gradually coming to their own, India cannot afford an injury to Bumrah simply because there is no one in the team who can simulate his performance. Thankfully, he has not broken down physically till now, but given an unusual bowling action, an injury can never be ruled out in his case.
Hence, keeping Bumrah up and running should be one of India's top priorities as the World Cup beckons.
(Saksham Mishra is a freelance sports journalist, justifying hours of watching sports by scribbling down a few logical lines that might just about hold your interest. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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