Jofra Archer and Jasprit Bumrah
Jofra Archer and Jasprit Bumrah

Stage set for Jofra Archer vs Jasprit Bumrah

While it is remarkable that Jasprit Bumrah, just 17 matches and three years old in Test cricket, is the spearhead of possibly the greatest pace attack in the world in such a short time. Jofra Archer, on the other hand, comes to India with a reputation far greater than his experience and age.
UPDATED ON FEB 05, 2021 07:34 AM IST

When was the last time that the biggest anticipation for a Test in India featured a face-off between two of the fastest bowlers in the world? The short answer is never. But what makes the upcoming contest between Jasprit Bumrah and Jofra Archer in the series starting Friday truly astonishing is that neither has played a Test in India.

It has been a while since the promise of Bumrah—first witnessed on the big stage during IPL 2013—came good at the international level. When it did, Bumrah’s presence even catalysed the rise of a fast-bowling nation.

While it is remarkable that Bumrah, just 17 matches and three years old in Test cricket, is the spearhead of possibly the greatest pace attack in the world in such a short time, it is just as sensational that none of those Tests were played at home.

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Either injured or rested for the eight Tests India have played in their backyard since his long-form debut in 2018, Bumrah will not only get to play in India in the four-match series against England, but also at his home ground of Motera in Ahmedabad (it will host the third and fourth Tests) if he can remain injury-free. He is, after all, returning from an abdominal strain that ruled him out of the final Test of the Australia series in Brisbane last month.

Bumrah was the last member of India’s bowling attack to limp out of the Australia series, which saw the team’s inexperienced standbys not only feature at the Gabba but punch well above their weight to win the match and series. Now, most of the frontliners are back in the squad—Ishant Sharma (who missed all of Australia), Bumrah and R Ashwin (both injured after Sydney) have all been named for the first two Tests in Chennai.

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But it is the return of Bumrah, or perhaps his maiden appearance in a Test in India, that has most excited captain Virat Kohli.

“Jassi (Bumrah) is someone who will be very keen to start off at our home conditions, because he understands these pitches very well. His skillset will be very handy on this pitch and it’s exciting to know that we have so many options and people who are bowling really well and are on top of their game,” he said on Thursday.

Kohli believes it was on England’s previous tour, which the hosts won 4-0 in 2016, when pace became his team’s primary weapon—a weapon that would go on to help India win not one but two Test series in Australia. “The last time around when we played England at home, our pacers outbowled theirs, which, if you ask me, was the beginning of the dominance of this fast bowling group,” Kohli said.

“That’s something, as a captain, you are very pleased to see. I am very excited for them to start off strongly in this series as well.”

Outbowling England in the pace department may be more of a challenge this time given that Archer is in England’s squad. He may not have played Test cricket here, but Archer has a strong connection with India due to IPL.

It was his 11 wickets with Rajasthan Royals in 2019 that convinced England’s ODI captain Eoin Morgan to select Archer for the World Cup. Two months into his 50-over career, he bowled the Super Over to help England hoist their maiden World Cup trophy at Lord’s.

A few days later on the same ground, Archer’s nerves of ice and fiery pace saw him earn his first Test cap; in the Ashes no less. He responded by making Steve Smith, then in the middle of an unstoppable run, the first concussed player in Test cricket with a 90mph bouncer to the helmet. Archer is just 11 Tests old. But he comes to India with a reputation far greater than his experience and age, quite like Bumrah.

What makes their upcoming showdown most refreshing is that neither cares much for tradition. Take their unhurried run-ups, for example. The Indian totters in with short, unrhythmic bursts while the Barbados-born Englishman saunters towards the pitch in a jog that borders on the casual—both far cries from the tearaway approaches of yore. But make no mistake, once the ball is released from either of their palms, it tends to spark the session, and sometimes even the entire Test, to roaring life.

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