The X-factor

Jasprit Bumrah was named the Sportsman of the Year (Cricket) at the Sportstar Aces Awards, supported by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, in association with MRF.

Jasmprit Bumrah is often quizzed about his unorthodox action, but even the Gujarat bowler is not sure how he started bowling in this manner.   -  AFP

The 21st-century revolution in cricket has seen a rise in the number of cricketers who first make it big in white-ball cricket before making a seamless transition into the purest form of the game. If 2018 is any indication, Jasprit Bumrah has made a permanent place for himself with astounding performances across all three formats.

His unique open-chested bowling action may not impress a connoisseur, but a combination of his pace, consistency and variations has meant he has made his mark in all three forms in international cricket, a rarity nowadays. Bumrah is often quizzed about his unorthodox action, but even the Gujarat bowler is not sure how he started bowling in this manner.

“In my childhood, I used to watch a lot of cricketers bowling… I don’t know how and when I developed this action. But whenever I have gone to NCA (National Cricket Academy) or anywhere, nobody tried to change my action. I was just asked to strengthen my body because, they thought, I can lose my pace. I have been a bit lucky in that aspect,” said Bumrah, who shared the award for Sportsman of the Year (Cricket) at the Sportstar Aces Awards, supported by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, in association with MRF, with his captain Virat Kohli.

He may have lost his pace, but his accuracy has increased, resulting in Bumrah emerging as the X-factor in India’s most threatening pace triumvirate of all times in Test cricket without losing his mojo in the shorter versions.

He started his Test career with 14 wickets in India’s three-match series in South Africa, but was then forced to the sidelines due to a finger injury he suffered during the Indian Premier League. After missing the first two Tests in England, he matches his South Africa tally in the remaining three games.

While his rich rewards in Test cricket may have surprised more than a few pundits, the shy bowler backs himself to the hilt. “I am not surprised. If I say I don’t believe in myself, who else will? I just try to back myself in any situation that I go,” he says. Yes, the start has been good and I have played in England, South Africa and Australia. Three different kinds of conditions, yes. I have not played a Test in India, but whenever you go to different countries, you have new learnings and experiences from playing in every country. I have had a good start. Let’s see how it goes further.”

In One-Day International cricket, he has picked 22 scalps in 13 matches at an economy rate of 3.62 — the best in international cricket in 2018 for bowlers with 15-plus wickets. Add to that the fact that he tops the ICC rankings for Twenty20 International bowlers and Bumrah’s tag as a “complete package” is naturally justified.