The cricketing world is not without its large share of purists and aficionados who swear their loyalty to the traditional Test cricket and frown upon Twenty20. But the glorious game that has evolved rapidly in the last half century, first in the form of one-day or pyjama cricket, as it was colloquially and derisively called, and more recently the Twenty20 thrash, has had a positive impact on youngsters.
Jasprit Jasbirsingh Bumrah can be said to be a product of the shortest format of the game. It was in mid-March of 2013, with Holi fast approaching, that the lithe, untrained but ambitious fast bowler wore the cricket boots for a format of tournament that Sunil Gavaskar warned India could ignore only at its own peril. In that way the Indian Premier League has been a remarkable concept for Indian cricket, no matter the tirade against it by a certain section.
Talking of Bumrah, he certainly was not casual in his first representative matches for Gujarat; he bowled spells of 4-0-20-1 against Maharashtra, 4-0-27-0 against Mumbai, 4-0-25-1 against Baroda and 2-0-8-0 versus Saurashtra. These were his performances in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy Twenty20 tournament that virtually went unnoticed by the media. They, however, did not escape the attention of former India coach John Wright. He was at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium as a coach-cum-talent scout for Mumbai Indians.
On February 1, in reply to a few questions posed by Sportstar , Wright e-mailed an interesting Bumrah story.
Not the one to jump and take credit for unearthing a raw talent, Wright, who continues to be a talent spotter for Mumbai Indians, recalled: “I first saw Jasprit in 2013, just before the IPL. It was my first season as coach of MI and pre-tournament, I had gone to Ahmedabad to watch the West Zone Twenty20. I was particularly interested in the tournament because we had a few MI boys, whom I had not seen, playing. One of them was Axar Patel; he looked very promising.”
But it was not the spinner on whom Wright’s attention fell. As he said, “I was watching Gujarat’s final overs and for the first time Bumrah. He bowled at good pace, a couple of overs of really good yorkers with an unusual action. He really impressed; he bowled one ball that must have landed in the bowlers’ footmarks, and it took off over wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel’s head and went for four byes.”
What happened after the match became the turning point in the young fast bowler’s career.
“Immediately after the match I had a quick word with Parthiv whom I’d coached with India and whose opinion I valued. I asked him if this kid was okay and as good as he looked to me. He confirmed that he was very promising and he got the ball through. So about 40 minutes after the match I rang Rahul Sanghvi, our MI manager, and said I’d seen this kid who looked a great prospect. And we signed him that night or the next day,” revealed Wright.
Bumrah went on to make the headlines, taking wickets and helping Gujarat land the Twenty20 title that year. He took three for 32 in his debut match for MI, against Royal Challengers Bangalore, at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
“Both Bumrah and Axar had good games in the (Mushtaq Ali) final. He (Bumrah) played our first match against RCB and got (Virat) Kolhi out, but he was very raw. He hadn’t at that stage played a lot of cricket as he had started late. I used to sit next to him on the team bus and he was a great kid. It was a case of the oldest sitting next to the youngest. I asked him once who taught him to bowl and he said ‘himself’. He used to watch cricket on television and whoever got five wickets he’d try to copy his action,” said Wright.
Praising Sandeep Patil & Co., the 61-year-old New Zealander said: “I think the selectors have done a great job by picking him this year; not too early, but because he has really matured. He didn’t bowl that great last year, because he was recovering from a leg operation… I think knee. But he’s had three years of learning with the State and MI teams and when I saw him in the 50-over competition a month ago, he had really come on this year, which is good for India and MI.”
India’s pace pack was giving the impression of being stereotyped and the selectors’ gamble to blood young fast bowlers with rough edges, but with the ability to surprise with their action and cause the ball to bounce and swing appears to have paid off.
Australia turned out to be good for them but cricket can be unpredictable, and this is what the likes of Bumrah and Barinder Sran have to be aware of. They have to learn more tricks of the trade too.