What's troubling Jasprit Bumrah?

  • India's deadly pace spearhead looks the same bowler as always, except he's not getting the ball to move the way he wants.
India's Jasprit Bumrah reacts. 
India's Jasprit Bumrah reacts. 
Published on Jan 07, 2022 05:46 PM IST
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BySanjay Manjrekar

Rahul Dravid, deep down, would be infuriated by India’s defeat in the 2nd Test. 

He has played against South Africa in South Africa many times in his career and would know that this current team is the weakest the hosts have ever been and thus, India have their best chance to win their first ever series in the country.

Losing a test to this team would be extremely troubling for him.

Two major events that eventually led to India’s defeat were, first: when India won the toss, batted first, and got just 202.

This score meant it allowed an average South African team, this time even without Quinton de Kock, to stay in the game. And they did that by getting a slender lead in the first innings. 

India in the second innings again failed to get a big score but the taking point and some celebration in that innings was the out of form Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane getting some runs and it seemed at the time that their efforts, with Hanuma Vihari’s thrown in, would be enough to win India the game. 

And let’s be honest, with the pitch producing the odd ball to kick without warning, who would have thought SA would get 244 in the final innings against a quality Indian bowling line up?

The second major event was how India bowled on the final day. 

Shami just started off colour in the second innings, drifting onto the pads a lot but this is something you get with Shami. He can blow hot or cold. Fortunately for India these days it’s the "Shami on fire" that India gets more.

The more interesting talking point is Jasprit Bumrah. 

Right through this Test, and for a while in Tests, I have been watching an interesting change in his bowling. Mind you, it’s the same Bumrah in many ways, with regards to his attitude, his effort--his speed too, has not waned as drastically as some of the other quick bowlers around the world. He is also damn accurate as he has always been. 

All those impressive traits are still intact, just that when the ball lands on the pitch, it’s not doing much. 

It’s not moving off the pitch as much as it should, especially on this Wanderer’s surface where virtually every ball changed course after landing. Shardul Thakur demonstrated this most prominently and he did it with both a scrambled seam and straight up seam too. 

Bumrah kept bowling with all his heart, attacked the stumps, but just wasn’t able to produce that magic delivery that suddenly cuts back and traps the batter LBW or leave the right hander to knock his off stump back. 

A lot of Bumrah deliveries are just going straight in the air and straight off the pitch. This is something Bumrah must look at, as to why that is the case. 

At this stage of his career, two things I feel Bumrah must do to evolve further is, if he finds that the ball isn’t doing much for him on a particular day, he must start bowling the outside off line where the odd ball will come in with his natural angle and force the batsman to play. 

This will pose a new challenge to batters facing Bumrah - whether to play or leave those balls - and even his benign deliveries may become more threatening and call for more respect from the batters. These will be dot balls too. 

When the ball isn’t doing much in the air or off the pitch, attacking the stumps every ball is just easy fodder for batters and that’s what panned out on the final day. The ease with which SA reached the target on the final day was because of how much India bowled straight, innocuous deliveries into the stumps. 

The other thing Bumrah must do, and hopefully the new team management can open his mind to it, is using the crease more. 

Now he tends to bowl only from one point on the bowling crease. If he occasionally goes wide with his natural angle coming in, that becomes a variation for a batter to worry about even if the ball is coming straight as a dart. 

Wide off the crease and outside the off and be patient and wickets will come--that should be the motto. Attack the stumps and try to demolish batting sides only when that ball is jagging around like mad or yes, keeping really low.

India will be strengthened by the return of Virat Kohli and this one performance of SA won’t suddenly make them a hard team to beat, their pedigree does not suggest that. 

This Indian team does not lose confidence very easily, this is a team that wins the next test after suffering a crashing defeat and being all out for 36 in that Test. 

India must start as favourites to win at Cape Town and thereby the series. And yes, Pujara and Rahane cannot be thinking that they have proved their "critics wrong". More is expected from batters of their experience (especially Rahane) , after a long run of poor form and when the team management backs you to the hilt. An Elgar-like innings would be the more appropriate payback.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2022