The year is 2015.
The Indian Cricket Team hasn’t come up with a good enough pacer for a while now. Let alone fighting in overseas conditions, we haven’t even found someone to replace our yesteryear pacers.
An ardent Team India fan approaches a scientist, asking him to come up with a prototype for the ideal pacer to lead India’s pace attack.
Someone who knows how to bowl both aggressive and defensive lines.
Someone who’s willing to bend his back to bowl those accurate shorter ones but also carries a mean yorker in his armoury.
And, given a choice, someone who also wears that chutzpah on his face.
The fan feels that we need someone beyond just Virat Kohli to intimidate oppositions.
Multiple scientists work on developing such a bowler and come up with a quick and effective option.
However, the prototype still had its shortcomings. While he did know how to bowl all of these deliveries, he wasn’t smart enough to be able to know when to bowl what.
You see, AI hadn’t made its way into our lives yet.
One would see him attempt those shorter ones at venues with true bounce or attempting yorkers instead of searching for swing in friendly conditions.
The problem was dire.
No one knew how we would ever find such a pacer who could do all of this and, if humanly possible, much more.
In walked Jasprit Bumrah.
After swiftly becoming the leader of the pack in white-ball cricket, he then took to Test cricket like a fish to water.
Before long, India was doing the unthinkable - winning overseas Tests, bundling teams for fun in alien conditions, pacers going hand-in-hand with spinners in not-entirely friendly home conditions.
But wait, why are we talking about all this?
ICYMI, Jasprit Bumrah is no ordinary human. So it was necessary to build him up this way.
After consistently being India’s go-to-bowler for about five years, India suffered its first major blow when he was ruled out for an extended period last year.
Coming back into the ODI setup after over a year - a format experts feel players have almost forgotten to play - Bumrah was at his best once again for the Men in Blue.
Again, isn’t Mohammed Shami the highest wicket-taker of the World Cup?
Of course, he is. He’s taken 24 wickets at an outstanding average of 10.7 and striking at a scarcely believable rate of once every 13 deliveries.
But Bumrah stands out in his ability to consistently deliver good overs anytime and anywhere.
Before the final, off the 82.5 overs he hurled at batters this edition, only once has he conceded more than 10 runs in an over. Just once.
And how does he do it with such consistency?
Usually, I try to analyse the wicket as soon as possible.
It’s this ability of his that’s come to the fore during the World Cup. He’s been the most economical pacer with the new ball and at the death and was only behind Kagiso Rabada and Shardul Thakur in the middle overs (min. 10 overs in each phase).
Even with the new ball, it wasn’t just straight-up aggression from Bumrah. Especially after Shami announced himself in this edition, Bumrah realised what was expected of him and did just that. He kept creating and maintaining that pressure from one end so that Shami and, to some extent, Siraj could take wickets from the other.
The consequence was that India hardly conceded any advantage in the first 10 overs. Despite teams, this World Cup, scoring 50 or more in the powerplay in 60% of the innings, Indian bowlers gave away over 50 runs in the powerplay just twice - against Bangladesh and Netherlands.
To say that the Indian team had missed Bumrah’s services would be an understatement. The Indian bowling attack's ability to restrict run-scoring and take wickets went up in his presence.
And who better than the bowling coach himself to talk about this?
It is tough to miss out on someone like Bumrah. You have seen what he brings to the table in this World Cup. He is a world-class bowler.
He gives you that breakthrough that you require in the powerplay. He's well adapted to bowl in the middle overs and he's a top, gun death bowler. We really missed him.
*Balls/Dismissal Differential = Balls/Dismissal (Bowler) - Average Balls/Dismissal in that World Cup
*Economy Differential = Economy (Bowler) - Average Economy in that World Cup
One quick glance at the above image and you can see why Bumrah is so highly rated. A positive differential indicates that the bowler has done better than average in that parameter.
Amongst the most economical bowlers of each edition, he’s one of seven bowlers to have taken wickets more frequently than the average bowler in their respective editions.
The reason this is remarkable is because the general rule of thumb is that scoring quickly comes at the expense of wickets and vice versa. But Bumrah has been able to get the better of batters even when they were not looking to score off him.
So is this effort good enough to be called the greatest ever?
That’s the thing about labels. They tend to divide opinions and box our perceptions of them.
There’s no denying that Bumrah has been scaringly good at inducing false shots and also creating chances for his team. So, in a sense, his performances played more of a second-order role in helping his team win the silver medal.
And if you look at Mitchell Starc’s 2015 World Cup - one of the other highlighted performances in the above chart - it was pretty much a one-man-show for the Aussies scalping 22 wickets for them, almost as many as Mitchell Johnson and James Faulkner, the next highest wicket-takers, combined.
Importantly, they went at 5 RPO as opposed to Starc’s miserly returns of 3.5 RPO, making his claim to the title just as legitimate.
Lastly, Courtney Walsh’s 1999 World Cup is the antithesis of the above two examples. Despite taking wickets, not conceding too many runs, and having enough support from fellow pacers, their team’s performance, or the lack of it, played a big role in it not being discussed enough.
Sure, the validity of this argument is debatable, but West Indies’ first-round exit meant that the performance would unfortunately be considered as not “impactful” enough.
These performances and the varying impact they’ve had on their sides’ fortunes just highlight the vagaries of the sport, and is yet another way of saying that we’re probably better off without the labels.
Decoded: Jasprit Bumrah, the giant amongst men
Gaurav Nandan Tripathi
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