Jasprit Bumrah holds key to unlocking India's T20 World Cup fortune | Crickit
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Jasprit Bumrah holds key to unlocking India's T20 World Cup fortune

Jun 04, 2024 10:12 AM IST

One can’t help but keep returning to the truism that for India to justify favouritism, Bumrah needs to fire on all cylinders.

During Season 17 of the Indian Premier League, Suryakumar Yadav said, only half in jest, that he preferred not facing Jasprit Bumrah in the Mumbai Indians nets. His reasoning: Best to protect limb and ego, not subject himself to a working over that might leave him light on confidence going into a contest.

Team India's Jasprit Bumrah during a training session ahead of their ICC T20 World Cup opening match against Ireland on June 5, in New York on Wednesday(ANI)
Team India's Jasprit Bumrah during a training session ahead of their ICC T20 World Cup opening match against Ireland on June 5, in New York on Wednesday(ANI)

Suryakumar is, let’s not forget, the No. 1 Twenty20 International batter in the world, an exalted status he has enjoyed for a long time now. He is fearless and innovative, unmindful of reputation or pedigree or class or quality. He’s not afraid of Bumrah, no sir. His pronouncement was merely another indication of how highly he, and the rest of the batting group worldwide, rates the pace bowler extraordinaire.

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On Monday at the Cantiague Park which has become the Indians’ second home over the last week or so, the storied protagonist was at work during India’s final full-fledged training session ahead of their T20 World Cup opener, against Ireland on Monday. Bumrah didn’t seem to be bowling within himself even on the somewhat sluggish track, prepared to let it fly against the likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal and Virat Kohli and Suryakumar – maybe the Indian team management isn’t as accommodating as the one at MI – as he worked his way into beast mode ahead of serious business.

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This is a World Cup that, many believe, will be decided by the smarts shown by the batters and the spinners on surfaces that, true to expectations, have so far discouraged unfettered ball-bashing. India are well stocked on both counts – skipper Rohit Sharma, Kohli, Suryakumar, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant, Jaiswal, Sanju Samson and Ravindra Jadeja form one of the most dangerous batting units, while Jadeja and Axar Patel are superbly complemented by wristies Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal when it comes to the spinning stakes.

And yet, one can’t help but keep returning to the truism that for India to justify favouritism, Bumrah needs to fire on all cylinders.

Bumrah is just a unique paceman, let’s accept that at face value. He is equally lethal in all formats, equally devastating with red ball and white. Within the limited-overs framework, he can use the new ball to grand effect, but he is as adept at controlling the middle overs with his changes of pace as he is at the death, when his lethal yorkers too come into play. If there is a more versatile, all-innings paceman in the world right now, he has yet to rise to the surface.

His efforts during Mumbai Indians’ abysmal IPL 2024 campaign reiterate just how much class is contained in that lithe, wiry frame. MI conceded runs by the bushel and managed only four victories in 14 outings; Bumrah finished with an extraordinary 20 wickets from 13 games – he was rested for the final, inconsequential fixture. More significantly, he only went at 6.48 runs per over, a good run and a half lesser than anyone else in the list of top ten wicket-takers. That economy rate is scarcely believable in any T20 competition spanning the duration of the IPL. To stack up that number in a tournament that broke all run-scoring records and produced the top two highest totals in IPL history points to a singular command over his craft that boggles the imagination and defies belief.

It's to Bumrah that Rohit will look for both penetration and control. Four overs might appear too few in which to make a lasting impact, especially when they are split into two, sometimes three and occasionally even four different spells. But no one seems to have told Bumrah that. The responsibility of being the unquestioned spearhead might sometimes drive even the champions to overreach in their effort to leave their mark. Again, Bumrah appears impervious to these pressures, confident as he is in the knowledge that when he is on top of his game, he doesn’t necessarily have to go looking for wickets to be successful.

True, Kuldeep will have a big say in how the middle overs pan out and Arshdeep Singh is gradually evolving into a terrific death-overs specialist, but Bumrah has the rare gift of being able to strike at every stage of the innings when the ball is thrown to him. It is therefore he, perhaps more than even Rohit and Kohli and Pant and Pandya, who holds the key that will unlock India’s fortunes. Allow him a free run, and Bumrah will be all over you. Keep him at bay, and it might not be half the battle won, but certainly a major psychological victory with far-reaching ramifications. Bumrah, India’s key man? Oh, you bet!

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