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OPINION | More to Jasprit Bumrah than just an unorthodox action

Bumrah started as a bowler who’d predominately bring the ball back into the right handed batsmen but over the last 18 months, he’s developed the ball that goes away too.

cricket Updated: Jan 02, 2019 08:34 IST
Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra
Hindustan Times
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File image of Jasprit Bumrah (left) with skipper Virat Kohli.(Action Images via Reuters)

We set the bowling machine at 5 miles slower than what we prefer to face and the reason is that you have to make allowance for not seeing the bowler running in, loading up in his action and actually releasing the ball. Since you don’t get time to prepare, you feel rushed. But ever wondered what is it that the eyes see and the mind processes that allows you to react appropriately?

One must start the trigger movement around the time when the bowler takes off in the jump and must finish before he’s released the ball but do you think a layman would be able to time it to perfection?

Let’s dig deeper — the moment you see the ball releasing from the bowler’s hand, you ought to make a few decisions — play or leave, go forward or move back and play an attacking shot or a defensive one and once the mind has processed this information, it must send the signals to the body parts to react accordingly.

Mind you — you have to do all this in quarter of a second. Sounds complicated? It is indeed if you’ve not trained your mind to pick cues that aren’t visible to a novice.

Mathew Syed, an international table-tennis player, wrote about his experiences of moving from the table-tennis table to a tennis court and even though the tennis ball was hurled in his direction a lot slower, he struggled to touch it. He had more distance to react on the tennis court and you’d assume that an international player will have the skills to move between sports slightly more seamlessly. But the reason why he could hit the faster ping pong ball across a small table and struggled against a slower tennis ball across a bigger court was the inability of his brain to see cues.

That’s exactly what happens to batsmen when they play a bowler with a slightly unorthodox action. They feel a few yards faster than they actually are, for the brain takes a fraction longer to make sense of the information it’s processing.

Bumrah’s unorthodox action gave him a head-start that no other regular bowler can claim to have. The basics of bowling is that when the non-bowling hand is up, the bowling hand is somewhere close to the waist. The moment, the non-bowling arm starts its downward journey, the bowling arm moves upwards in order to release the ball.

This does not happen in a conventional manner for Bumrah, for the non-bowling arm is neither bent nor does it go up fully. Similarly, the bowling arm goes backwards and upwards. At one time in his action, both his arms are parallel to the ground — a position batsmen are not used to seeing while preparing to play a fast bowler.

In addition to this, he’s got some amount of natural hyperextension in the bowling arm that allows him to propel the ball a lot faster.

Last but not the least, the front leg is always braced at the time of release, which accentuates the speed put behind the ball and makes him the tallest that he can be, and that helps him extract extra bounce. He tends to hit the bat harder and higher than his peers.

Once the mystery around the unorthodox action goes away, it tends to get a little easier for batsmen to play. But that’s where Bumrah has been exceptional. He started as a bowler who’d predominately bring the ball back into the right handed batsmen but over the last 18 months, he’s developed the ball that goes away too. While the focus in white-ball cricket is on mastering the variations, he seems to have spent enough time to maintain a solid stock ball too.

Above all, he’s a thinking bowler who knows what he’s capable of and when to use his variations, which makes him unpredictable. There’s no doubt in my mind that Bumrah is world’s best fast bowler across the three formats.

(The writer is a former India opener. Views are personal)

First Published: Jan 02, 2019 08:31 IST