One of the biggest positives for Team India from the first two Tests against England in the UK was the return to the form of lead pacer Jasprit Bumrah. The speedster was under extreme pressure having gone wicketless in the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand in Southampton, that too under conditions well-suited for pace bowling. Even as the Kiwi pacers ran through the Indian batting line-up twice, Bumrah and co failed to make much of an impression on the New Zealand batters. In the end, Kane Williamson’s men lifted the WTC title rather easily, with India giving up despite two full days being lost to rain.
Following the WTC final loss, India went on a three-week break and, during this time, Bumrah came under intense scrutiny. While critics and experts pointed out flaws in his bowling, some frustrated fans went to the extent of unfairly claiming that Bumrah was fit only for Mumbai Indians (MI) in the IPL. Detailed scrutiny pointed out that this was the second time in four years that the premier fast bowler had failed to deliver in a crunch clash. He had, earlier, also faltered in 2017 Champions Trophy final against Pakistan. His wicket off a no-ball gave the opponents a massive relief and the beneficiary – Fakhar Zaman – cracked a hundred to lead Pakistan to a famous win.
Bumrah’s lean spell
To be fair to Bumrah, apart from the WTC final, the pacer hasn’t really had a bad time in Test matches. If we look at his record in the longest format of the game starting January 2019, he has played 13 matches in which he has claimed 47 wickets at a good average of 24.25 with three five-wicket hauls. The numbers have been inflated due to the series against West Indies, in which he picked up 13 wickets in two matches, and two of his three five-fors.
He hasn’t done badly on the other tours as well although it needs to be said that the numbers are well below lofty expectations from Bumrah. During this period, he has averaged over 30 in Australia, New Zealand and in India across eight Test matches. Bumrah’s figures could have been worse in England but for the two matches in the ongoing series in which he has lifted his game tremendously. After going wicketless in the WTC final against the Kiwis, Bumrah has claimed 12 scalps against England at an average of 18.50 and is the series’ leading wicket-taker so far.
Questions over Bumrah’s poor form got exaggerated due to the horror run he has had in the ODIs during this period. While he impressed in the 2019 World Cup in England, the 27-year-old has endured a barren run in Australia and at home. Since the start of 2019, he has played eight matches in India, in which he has claimed eight wickets at an average of 45.50. In three games that he featured in Down Under, Bumrah picked up four wickets at an average of 48.75, following which the swords were out against him.
Roaring back, Boom Boom style
Following the disappointment in the WTC final, some experts even wanted Bumrah dropped from the team for the England Tests. However, the management placed their faith in their lead bowler and he has delivered so far. The wicket of England opener Rory Burns, who was perfectly set up by Bumrah in the first over of the first Test in Nottingham, was a much-needed fillip to the Indian pacer. He has looked like the Bumrah of old since.
Boosted by his partnership with Mohammed Shami at Lord’s, Bumrah played a stellar role in India’s victory at Lord’s. His confidence and variations are back. The way he trapped Ollie Robinson with the slower ball cleared the decks for India’s win. Bumrah still has a problem with no-balls though, which needs to be sorted at the earliest. India wouldn’t want a replay of the 2017 Champions Trophy final at any cost.