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Stretching his repertoire to a new high, Bumrah leaves a stern reminder of his quality

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Last updated on 28 Jan 2024 | 07:19 AM
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Stretching his repertoire to a new high, Bumrah leaves a stern reminder of his quality

On a wicket where both sides combined played seven spinners, it was a pacer who was dictating terms

There was nothing about Jasprit Bumrah’s performance in the Hyderabad Test that would be talked about for years. Heck, people will forget it by the time the caravan reaches Visakhapatnam for the second Test. But can Jasprit Bumrah forget this himself?

His second-innings spell of 4/41, following it up with 2/28 in the first innings, would perhaps find itself as one of the most perception-defining performances by an Indian pacer.

Even accounting for the presence of Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Ravindra Jadeja, Bumrah is the biggest blessing for Indian cricket this century. But that also makes him a privileged cricketer. He only plays away Tests, World Cups, and IPL, which made the BCCI wrap him up in cotton wool, unleashing only when necessary.

Was it necessary for him to play in a home Test where spinners call the shots? It would have been a very fair question, but the fact that India didn’t have Mohammed Shami in the side made adding Bumrah the most plausible option. It was also important for how else the world would have come to notice another facet of his bowling that he doesn’t get to showcase in favourable conditions.

Bumrah averages 14.40 in home Tests, a strike rate of 32.9, which is better than every country he has played in, save West Indies. Sure, he has only played five Tests in India so far, but they are mostly on raging turners. Because it is his control that leaves a lingering magic for Indian fans - and what we witnessed in Hyderabad was nothing less than that.

It was down to Ollie Pope, unburdened by his lack of runs against India, who decided to weave his magic for 148 runs on Day 3, but the onslaught on Day 4 left an even bigger scar on the Indian team. The lead was mounting, with even Rehan Ahmed playing uppish cover drives against Ashwin.

Bumrah hadn’t ever been subjected to situations like this in Indian conditions, where he had to bail the spinners out on a Day 4 wicket. Almost unimaginable even. But when did Bumrah last walk away from a challenge? He made reverse swing as his armoury and, almost in a Umesh Yadav fashion, induced an edge of Rehan Ahmed to provide India the first breakthrough.

It helped that when he was off the attack, Mohammed Siraj employed the short ball ploy to leave Tom Hartley busy. Not releasing control with the pace helped India somehow scamper back, even though Ashwin and Jadeja were living a horror show on their own. 

That Pope was approaching the double century, perhaps waiting for the most memorable moment of his career, another Jasprit Bumrah ball left a sore aftertaste for the Surrey batter. Pope had already made up his mind to play the reverse scoop, but Bumrah checked the pace at the last moment, and voila, the stumps were left cartwheeling on the ground. The valiant English batter was gone for 196 - four shy of what would have been a career-shaping double.

On a wicket where both sides combined played seven spinners, it was a pacer who was dictating terms. This had nothing to do with the pitch or its deteriorating standard but purely a magician of a performer who knows his strengths and how to optimise them in the long term. 

Bumrah’s swing and seam movement might have given him the reputation of the world’s finest bowler, but on Sunday - heck, over the course of the last four days - Bumrah has firmly established that those two traits are nothing but just a couple of facets to his career. He is capable of way too much. 

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