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Jasprit Bumrah: How superstar bowler became India’s greatest seamer

Jasprit Bumrah has flummoxed even the best of the England batting line up with his pace and skill

Sonia Twigg
Wednesday 07 February 2024 11:27 GMT
Jasprit Bumrah has got the measure of the England batting attack
Jasprit Bumrah has got the measure of the England batting attack (AFP via Getty Images)

Long after India’s 2024 home series against England is over and the individual peaks and troughs are forgotten, people will watch Jasprit Bumrah’s centimetre-perfect yorker that sent Ollie Pope’s stump cartwheeling out of the ground.

Bumrah has confounded batters with his unusual action since he made his India T20 debut in 2016, and he stands up there with the best Test cricket has to offer - currently fourth in the ICC Test bowling rankings, with not much between him, Pat Cummins and Kagiso Rabada.

In the modern era, after the second Test of the series, Bumrah’s average was only bettered by his teammate Axar Patel and New Zealand’s Kyle Jamieson. After 34 Tests he averaged 20.19 with the ball, an outstanding feat for any bowler.

Bumrah is a giant of the game and arguably the greatest seamer India have produced since the days of uncovered wickets. Seam bowling itself is an art, and it is harder still to produce magic on Indian pitches.

A yorker is not an easy ball to bowl, either, get it a touch too full and it becomes the batter’s favoured full toss, while a tad too short and it becomes a half volley. But to Pope: Bumrah bowls it with perfection.

However, Bumrah is more than just his unplayable deliveries, his entire way of approaching bowling, and the crease is a phenomenon.

“Facing him isn’t like facing anyone else in the world and I used to hate it,” Stuart Broad said in the Daily Mail.

“Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga, with his slingy round-arm release, had that point of difference about him and Bumrah has something similar in that his deliveries are incredibly hard to pick up.

“Because he trots in from a very calm, short, shuffling run-up, he generates no real energy and there is therefore no real build-up to the ball suddenly being upon you at the striker’s end. It can be very disconcerting.”

Bumrah has an unorthodox and unique bowling action (AFP via Getty Images)

Reverse-swing is an art in itself, and many great seam bowlers struggle to generate any movement from an older ball, while others revel in it.

"Bumrah worked those batters out (in the second Test) and it was beautiful to see,” former England fast-bowler Steven Finn said on TNT Sports.

“I practiced it a lot when I was younger. The thing that makes Bumrah so difficult to pick up, there are two things, his arm is beyond perpendicular.

“As a right-handed batter, his arm is almost at 11 o’clock on a clock face, it feels like he’s always pushing that ball into you, so you have to play at every single delivery, when the ball arcs in, you have to be aware of your pads, you get drawn into playing those away swingers.

“The angle of Bumrah’s arm makes it feel like it’s always coming into the stumps. So he uses that to his advantage.”

Bumrah has an unusual action and while many bowlers showcasing their own quirks - Lasith Malinga’s sidearm, and James Anderson looking at the floor when he delivers the ball - his unorthodox stiff bowling arm is beneficial.

“His release point of his arm, usually it’s above your front foot,” Finn adds.

Bumrah is one of India’s greatest-ever seamers (AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s usually about 22 yards you deliver the ball from, Bumrah’s arm, he’s so flexible through his hips, how braced his front leg is, he delivers the ball further forward than other bowlers, he’s not only bowling about 145kmph, 90mph, he’s bowling it about a yard further forward than any other bowler in the world. You add to that, his understanding of moving batters around the crease. The psychological element.

“Add all those things into the melting pot, a bowler that has 150 Test wickets at 20.19, it’s flabbergasting in the modern era, and coming from India.”

Facing up against and surviving Bumrah will be a tough ask for any batter, even for those accustomed to swing and seam conditions elsewhere in the world.

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