Bow down to Bumrah - an ethereal genius who keeps outdoing himself

India v Pakistan - ICC Men
Jasprit Bumrah's sensational spell helped India come back from the brink against Pakistan

Disclaimer: There is not much in this article that has not already been said about Jasprit Bumrah. But on Sunday, he gave Indian and cricket fans worldwide a tale to tell for generations, reiterating his ever-lasting class and ethereal ability.

June 9, 2024. New York. The Big Apple. Cricket has not been the sport played in these parts over the years. This T20 World Cup aims to bring cricket to one of the best cities in the world and wants to make it a part of the conscience, much like it is in South Asia.

An India-Pakistan contest fits the bill perfectly. Shared borders, political differences, rich cricketing history, intertwining narratives, heart-stopping action – this fixture usually has it all.

But when India huffed and puffed to 119 and got bowled out in 19 overs, there was a restlessness among Indian fans at the venue (and of course back home). This is easily their lowest total against Pakistan at the men’s T20 World Cup, and while those at the venue try to re-energize the 2007 champions, it just feels India do not have enough.

Until…that man with 93 on his back and a quirky action comes on to bowl.

Jasprit Bumrah's stunning spell tilted the game India's way

After two overs, Pakistan have 15 on the board. Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan have looked largely untroubled, and a few more overs of this will take the game beyond India.

The first ball he bowls is on the fuller side. Rizwan reaches out for it and squirts it past Ravindra Jadeja at backward point. On the third ball, Rizwan, uncharacteristically, goes for a huge hoick across the line, only to inside-edge it into his body.

Pakistan, at this stage, do not need to take many risks, let alone against Bumrah. And they most certainly do not need to be playing across the line on a pitch that has been two-paced all morning. But that is what Bumrah does to people. He muddles their thinking to such an extent that they often end up taking the worst (or the most injudicious) option.

And so…the chance comes. A fullish ball on the pads is helped straight to Shivam Dube at fine leg. The Chennai Super Kings all-rounder, though, grasses it. An absolute sitter, and he has found a way to put it down.

The moment the ball slips out of his grasp and is tumbling to the turf, you can sense a billion Indian hearts sink. This is the game they hate losing more than most and surely they will not get an opportunity of this kind again?

Wrong. They will get an opportunity again. And that is not because Pakistan have been panicky run-chasers historically, but because of Bumrah.

An over later, after being carted over mid-wicket for four by Babar, Bumrah comes up with the perfect riposte. Hard length, just outside off, nipping away after shaping to angle in and it draws a dab from the Pakistan skipper. Suryakumar Yadav does the rest at wide slip, and India suddenly have an opening. Moments after the disappointment of the dropped catch, and almost an hour after things started going pear-shaped with the bat.

By this point, the pressure is on Pakistan. After five overs, the score is 26-1 and the chase, which might have seemed straightforward, does not seem so anymore. But they do a good job to get to 80-3 after 14 overs. Just under run-a-ball but they only require 40 off 36, with seven wickets still in hand.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the team batting will win. The only time they will perhaps lose it is when Bumrah is in the opposition. Because, well, Bumrah is the deviation. The ultimate anomaly. A bowler who pushes the boundaries of what is indeed possible, of how few runs are too many to chase and a real case study of how someone can keep producing the goods, both when he is expected to and when the game seems to be drifting away.

And so, it happens for Bumrah, and in extension, it happens for India. He is brought back to bowl the 15th over and he cleans up Rizwan first ball. The shot is not great and could probably be put down as a brain fade moment. Bumrah, though, causes so many of these brain-fade moments that you have to believe it is now down to him.

He returns to bowl the penultimate over – this time, with Pakistan needing 21. By the time he is done, Pakistan need 18, and they have to do it without Iftikhar Ahmed, their designated finisher.

The ball that got Iftikhar was not the greatest Bumrah would ever bowl, but it was enough. In that cauldron of pressure and noise, Bumrah dared Iftikhar to make a mistake, and Iftikhar made a mistake. All the while Bumrah stood there, cool, calm, collected, and with a smile on his face.

That is the other aspect that endears so many to India’s spearhead. Off the field, he appears quiet and studious, someone who would not even hurt a fly. But when he has the ball in his hand, oh, a metamorphosis happens and nothing feels more dangerous. Almost like a devil, who batters fear always has their number.

There is an adage that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he did not exist. Bumrah has not convinced anyone he does not exist; he very much exists. But a bowler as perfect as him should not exist, because it is just unfair to the other teams. He is, to put into a gaming parlance, a proper cheat code.

White ball, red ball, green pitch, flat track, two-paced surface, India, Australia, England, South Africa, the States – whenever and wherever his team needs him, he is there. Pushing the batters closer to committing mistakes and if they do not do that, then brazenly flexing his power to beat them, even when they are at their best. To show who the real boss is.

All of this was probably known to cricket fans before Sunday happened in New York. Yet, they will be talking about it for ages and ages. And will be an “I was there” moment for years to come.

A performance that brought India back from the brink, against their arch-rivals and made them win a game they had no business winning. A display that needs to be cherished, enjoyed, and wowed over. Until…it premieres again. Which, given his track record, could be mere days away.

That tells you everything you must know about Bumrah. And why there will never be anyone quite like him.

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