At 22, Jasprit Bumrah is India’s new-found crisis man who likes to keep his emotions in check while bowling those penultimate overs.
At heart, he is a mommy’s boy and credits her upbringing for his success. Bumrah though doesn’t want to get distracted by the fame and money. Mention girls to him and he says all that can wait.
In a long chat with Hindustan Times, India’s latest pace sensation spoke on cricket and his sacrifices for its sake, including the self-admitted ‘weird combination’ of chicken biryani and dal makhni. And how having a principal mother in the same school meant he always had to be the good boy.
Q: Has life changed with all this fame and money in the last five months?
Life’s still the same. I’m still the same person. I still hang out with the same friends. My family still treats me the same way but people have started to recognise now that I have played for India. That is possibly one change that has come. And I don’t take care of my money. My mom has been given that responsibility. She takes care of everything. I don’t interfere in money matters. They are old enough, much more experienced than me so they know how to handle money which is going to be helpful for all of us in the family.
Q:What is the flip side to this success?
You have to make some sacrifices if you want to be a successful cricketer. From an early age you can’t spend time with the family. I don’t get to see my mother regularly. I don’t get much time with my friends. I have to travel all the time. I don’t get to eat home food. When I go home I eat only what my mom cooks for me. I don’t want to go out.
Q:Tell us about your family. When did you start playing cricket?
My family comprises of my mom (Daljit) and elder sister (Juhika) who is married. My father (Jasbir) passed away when I was small. We are a very closely knit family. I always wanted to play cricket but I didn’t get the time. I got the time only after class 10. Before that I was just playing tennis ball cricket for my society, just for fun.
Q:Was tennis ball cricket a reason behind your yorkers?
In tennis ball cricket you can’t bowl length balls because it doesn’t swing. There, only one ball is effective. So yes that could be a reason. But this is a ball that I always bowled even for Gujarat in domestic matches.
Q: Were coaches apprehensive about your action?
My full time cricket coaching started after class 12. I have been lucky in that aspect because no coach has tried to change my action. Even at the NCA or MRF Pace Foundation, everywhere the coaches told me that ‘we will not change your action but only make you stronger’.
Q:How did playing for Mumbai Indians improve you?
I played IPL before playing Ranji Trophy. It was the other way round for me. So I learnt quite a lot from IPL, from being part of a big team like Mumbai Indians. That was the last year of my U-19 cricket. So for me, it was U-19, U-25 then Twenty20 (Mushtaq Ali Trophy), followed by IPL. Next year I played India U-23 and then came Ranji Trophy. My stint with Mumbai Indians has helped me develop as a cricketer. It was a great learning curve. I came to know how to prepare, what things you have to do to play international cricket. First few days I was asking myself ‘where are you’ because till then I had seen the other seniors only on television. But the way they came up to talk to me, it made everything very comfortable.
Q:Do you remember the day you got your IPL contract?
It was in Ahmedabad. I was playing a domestic league match for Gujarat against Mumbai so many Mumbai Indians players like Aditya Tare and Axar Patel were there. John Wright had come to see how they were doing before the IPL. He saw me. At that time IPL contracts could be given after the T20 matches (Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy) as well. I didn’t take many wickets in that match but I bowled well so he liked it. Before the next match I got a call that Mumbai Indians were probably looking at me. After that match against Baroda I got a call confirming that I would be given a contract.
Q: What was your first reaction after hearing that?
I didn’t expect it. Axar was there. He was my friend. We played our junior and U-19 cricket together. He was selected too so I was very happy that we will be together. I thought that we could learn many things from this IPL exposure and that way it could help our Gujarat team as well.
Q: Didn’t the desire of playing for India ever cross your mind?
Who doesn’t want to play for the country? But I wanted to take it step by step. If you become a better cricketer automatically things will come to you. So I was thinking that if I do well everywhere automatically things will fall in place.
Q: What are the things you have focused on since joining Mumbai Indians?
Every year of the IPL I ask myself what I can learn because there are so many senior players like Shane Bond and Lasith Malinga. I met Malinga after a match I had played. It was he who came up to me and started talking. He helped me quite a lot and we always stay in touch. Bond joined the team last year when I was coming out of an (knee) injury. So that helped me quite a lot since he has had his fair share of injuries. He knows how to come back from it. Bond has played a major role.
Q: And how has your fitness regime changed?
This is what I have learned in the IPL. Before playing IPL I was in U-19 and at that stage you don’t know a lot about fitness or diet. I came here and learnt how important training, diet and recovery are for a fast bowler, especially if he wants to play for a long period of time. And it improves your game as well. My diet too has changed a lot. I love Indian sweets but don’t eat it much. My favourite food is biryani and dal makhni. It’s a weird combination but I don’t have it much since it’s not good for health. But once in a while I have chicken biryani. Normally I order grilled chicken for room service.
Q: MS Dhoni said you were the find of that Australia tour. How did you react to it?
It’s really good that such an experienced captain is praising you so much but I don’t think too much about what is being said about me. I just focus on what I have to do in the next matches or how I have to prepare.
Q: In a very short time, you have become India’s go-to bowler in crunch situations. Do you enjoy it or feel the pressure at times?
There’s always pressure when you bowl those crucial overs but I enjoy that challenge. If you do well then you can take your team home. I always like bowling in tough situations because that tells what you are made of. It gives added responsibility as well.
Q:How did that World Twenty20 match against Bangladesh change you?
I have played such matches in domestic cricket before too. But it’s different playing for India since you are always under the spotlight. But I have faced some tough situations and have been able to come back. I back myself even if an over doesn’t go well. I have been working on my fielding. I always do my extra sessions in fielding. And I am not a very bad batsman. In four day cricket I can bat and support my partner. I am improving slowly in all aspects of the game.
Q:You do well in T20s and people start stamping you as a player only for these formats. Does it bother you?
It doesn’t matter to me. I know where I stand because I have done well in Ranji Trophy too. I have played four-day matches for India A in Australia so I have the belief since I have done well over there. So it doesn’t matter what people think. My aim is to do well in four-day matches. But that is a different ball game.
Q:How important is aggression for a fast bowler?
It’s important. You have to tell the batsman that you are always on top of your game. But you don’t need to abuse the batsmen. You can give him that stare but abusing is not on. I don’t go and do stupid stuff in front of the batsman. I used to do that. In my early days I used to be very aggressive, get really angry but ultimately it affected my bowling. But now I know. Aggression should be inside.
Q: How are you off the field?
Off the field I am a very different person. I love to spend time with my family. I’m a quiet family guy. I listen to all types of music. I like a lot of TV series like Two and a Half Men, Game of Thrones and Big Bang Theory. I’m still getting the hang of it, trying to watch new stuff. Right now I am on Quantico. I don’t read too much. I want to develop that habit. I read a little bit but I will only read autobiographies of sportspersons and successful players so that I get some tips.
Q: Every player has his own way of relaxing before a match. What’s yours?
Before any match I like to listen to some music. I am a Punjabi so I like Punjabi music, some Hindi songs as well. That helps me relax and not think much about the match. I think about that only when I enter the ground.
Q: It looks to be a fairly successful career you have had till now but has it been always like this?
A lot of failures have come my way. People have just seen me so they don’t know much about my failures. From my U-19 days I have struggled to come to the side so I know how it feels. Like when I was not selected for a side or when a match didn’t go well. I was on the verge of playing for India A when I had that knee injury. I missed that opportunity. I feared I would not be able to bowl fast again. So I know what mindset one should have in success or failure.
Q:To what extent is your family responsible for that mindset?
My sister and mother have raised me with a lot of values. Both of us are very close to our mother. She insists that we must be humble and stay grounded. She tells me that ‘if you go ahead of yourself then you will be pulled back as well’. My mom is a principal. I went to the same school where my mom was the principal at the pre-primary level. You can’t do a lot of mischief when you have a parent in the school because as soon as something happened she would straightaway get the report. So you have to be well behaved but still I could manage something at times.