Experience was supposed to give India the edge in the T20 series, but it is young blood which has injected life into the outfit. Jasprit Bumrah’s arrival has been like a breath of fresh air, while Hardik Pandya, despite his antics, impressed in parts with his craft and attitude.
On wickets where pacers from both sides have struggled, the 22-year-old Bumrah made an immediate impact. Falling short in no matter what they tried, India were at their wits’ end in the first four games of the tour. After Bumrah’s addition, it’s been two wins out of two.
At the Sydney Cricket Ground, his debut game, Bumrah proved to be the only bowler who managed to hold his own. First, Australia sent Ishant Sharma & Co on a leather hunt and amassed 330. The visitors returned the favour by chasing down the target for the loss of just six wickets.
Ishant and Umesh Yadav were supposed to help calm Bumrah’s nerves, but Ishant went for 60 runs, Umesh conceded 82 in eight overs and Rishi Dhawan 74 in 10 overs. The figures were equally poor for the home team pacers. Bumrah, the youngest in the fray, returned figures of 10-0-40-2. His two scalps included Australia captain Steve Smith and James Faulkner.
Some attributed the performance to the Australians getting caught off-guard because of his awkward action. The home batsmen were expected to be better prepared in the opening T20, but Bumrah again had them on leash with figures of 3.3-0-23-3, which included 10 dot balls. Among his victims was Australia’s best player of the year, David Warner.
It’s not just about the awkward action, Bumrah has other skills which make him a dangerous customer. He can generate sharp pace, in the range of 140 kph, to add to his natural incoming ball. Check with Faulkner and he will confirm that Bumrah’s most dangerous ball is the yorker. Two in two, Bumrah has nailed the Australia all-rounder with the toe-crusher. He has shown control over it, bowling more of them in two matches than all the other Indians in the first four games.
Pandya had a nightmarish start, conceding 19 runs in his first over in international cricket, with five wides. To his credit, he didn’t buckle, and returned to pick two wickets. He even had the courage to give Chris Lynn a send-off. Having received a reprimand from the match referee, he needs to be careful, but such enthusiasm on the field can be infectious.
As Australia look to square the T20 series at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, they won’t be too bothered about Pandya yet. They would be under pressure to come up with a quick plan to counter Bumrah.
Captain Aaron Finch admitted Bumrah has been a tough proposition, and planned to take him on the front foot. “He’s bowling a back of length, the ball that tends to skid a little bit and takes some getting used to. When you see it out of the hand, you think it’s a back-foot ball, but it is actually a front-foot ball. You just got to keep that in mind for the last few games,” said Finch.
Shane Watson, who shared the bowling honours with Bumrah at Adelaide, was looking forward to the match on Friday. “Bumrah bowls at good pace and he is different from the way he swings the ball into right handers. Bringing the brand new ball in, he is able to execute his yorkers well. Some of the match-ups to our batsmen is good as well, and there is no surprise he has come in and done well.”