When Jasprit Bumrah started playing for India back in early 2016, an aspect of his cricket that stood out most was his unorthodox bowling action.
Just a few strides through, before the upper body goes from a closed-in position to an open-chested one midway, while the two hands create a clock-like arc to generate the force with which the delivery is about to be released.
It was Malinga-esque how batsmen failed to sight the ball properly in those days against Bumrah. In that initial period, while as a bowler Bumrah was the more comfortable bowling the fuller lengths – the yorker, for example – what helped him make up for his yet developing skillset to keep a wood over batters was his action.
It aided his smooth transition to the top-level, while he could go through the process of properly fine-tuning his game on the sidelines and become the robust cricketer capable of serving India and Mumbai Indians (MI) long.
In the beginning, Jasprit Bumrah had so much greater a margin of error in terms of lengths as teams were yet to properly come to grips with his method of operation. It makes a massive difference at the highest level if you can plant a seed into the batter’s mind and force him to take an extra second in the process of simply watching and reacting to the ball.
A distinct feature of the top-level cricket, however, is that you can’t ever rest on your laurels and must keep refining yourself. With extensive video analysis of players available to all teams, cricketers are only one poor day away from having to doubt their ways and being forced to add to their bag of tricks.
Jasprit Bumrah, perhaps, understood this very early and with time and hardwork, became the excellent bowler he is today, with a fantastic range across formats. Someone whose potency isn’t limited to a particular format or certain lengths only. Bumrah has excelled with the white as well as the red Kookaburra and has also showed he can swing the ball away from the right-handers (considered a thing beyond his reach once) just as he seams it into them. He can nail the attacking lines and lengths just as successfully as he bangs the ball in at defensive ones.
Why Jasprit Bumrah’s Action Is Still His Big Strength?
In terms of pure skillset, Jasprit Bumrah is one of the finest ever pacemen the world has seen. Yet, from a batter’s perspective, it would be unfair to suggest that Bumrah’s action doesn’t still accentuate the trouble they face in having to negotiate him. Over time, you’d expect competed batsmen in international and IPL cricket, to be able to overcome a bowler’s unorthodoxy and counter him regularly. The history of the game is filled with such names, who didn’t last long post that honeymoon period.
Against Bumrah, however, it is fair to say batsmen haven’t yet fully got the measure of him, especially those varying release-points of his. Bumrah’s clock-like, boomerang sort of action still forces batsmen to watch the ball an extra fraction of a second late. The process of identifying the line and lengths at which the ball is delivered early is extremely important for a batter, as then only he can react properly and score off it.
With Bumrah, that process goes blur right from the start due to the failure in picking his varying release points. Because of how Bumrah’s bowling arm goes from the mid-wicket position to that of the mid-off while operating from ‘over-the-wicket’ to right-handers within a split second, it remains tough to pick him and succeed against him.
Bumrah isn’t just perfecting what happens off the track, he is making it tougher to understand what happens before it by enhancing the level of deception about him. Bumrah, perhaps, knows the strengths of his action and so, also uses different angles at the crease from wider off the stumps to closer.
A ball that straightens upon pitching after being delivered from wider off the crease remains one of the hardest to negotiate as a right-hand batsman. You pick the line a fraction wrong and that is often good enough, at express pace, for the ball to sneak through the small gap between the bat and the pad.
One other aspect of Jasprit Bumrah’s action is that it is a rare commodity with regards to the slower balls, as he doesn’t have to lose speed in how his arm rotates to be able to reduce the velocity of the ball he is releasing. Bumrah can bowl a slower ball without any obvious change in his action, just as he delivers his fastest ball. It is why Bumrah’s off-cutters are the hardest to score off on a track like Chepauk where the ball grips a lot. And it is essentially why many batters tend to play a touch earlier and miscue their shots off Bumrah’s slower balls.