Shashwat Kumar was in Nagpur to witness Jasprit Bumrah’s return to competitive action, and for much of it, it felt as if he had never left.
Jasprit Bumrah has, over the past few years, established himself as arguably the most important component in India’s machinery. Capable of excelling across formats, his absence has often left a huge void. Thus, it was not a huge surprise that India huffed and puffed at the Asia Cup. Their death bowling was lacklustre and they lost games they should have won. So, when news came through that Bumrah was fit and would play the T20I series against Australia, plenty were intrigued to see how he would fare.
Back injuries are to be expected for any fast bowler, but there have been instances in the past when pacers have simply not recovered. On other occasions, they have had to settle for a more conservative version of themselves. Bumrah has previously overcome such adversity, most notably in 2019. But every injury leaves a different scar on the body, both physically and mentally.
To add to the tension and drama, Bumrah did not feature in the T20I at Mohali. When he did come into the XI at Nagpur, however, he ensured that people cast aside all their fears about his injury and revelled in a patchy yet crucial display. If you just look at Bumrah’s figures, they might not seem noteworthy. He conceded 23 runs in two overs, and was hit for three fours. But there was one moment that captured everything good about Bumrah. The speed of thought, the accuracy, the ability to bring millions to their feet and of course, the propensity to produce magic even in the most mundane of surroundings.
In the fifth over, with Aaron Finch on strike, Bumrah decided to unleash his greatest weapon – the yorker. Prior to it, the Indian pacer had hardly attempted a fast yorker. The pitch, too, looked conducive to slower balls and variations. So there was plenty of reason to take pace off the ball and just use what the surface had to offer. That, though, is where Bumrah makes a living.
He does what the batter least expects him to do. Almost everyone knows how dangerous he is when bowling the yorker. Not many (if any), however, can keep out a full-blooded Bumrah yorker – something Finch found out the hard way. And if that was not enough, the Australia skipper applauded the India fast bowler after his stumps had been left in an almighty mess.
There was another moment of magic during Bumrah’s spell. This one came against Steve Smith, and while it did not lead to a picture-book dismissal, it left Smith floored. Smith rarely gets outwitted by bowlers. He averages 60 in Test cricket, and that would not have been possible had he not made a habit of being a step ahead. So, you kind of get why Bumrah is so special, right?
Of course, this was not a performance that Bumrah will hang up on his walls. Nor was it a display that will be revered by his supporters for years to come. If this outing is gauged purely by the standards he has previously set, it might not even qualify as particularly special. But because of everything that has happened, both with the India team and with Bumrah battling back from another potentially serious injury, it becomes noteworthy.
Bumrah was away from cricket for a while. Throughout that duration, his return could not have come soon enough for India. When he returned, it felt as if he had not missed a beat, like he had never left. If India are to win the games that they have ended up losing lately, they would hope it stays that way.