Jasprit Bumrah: The gift Indian cricket always craved for
What is intriguing about any desert, no it is not the never ending sand, it is not the complete lack of hope, it is not even the perennial search for positivity; but it is more about the positivity of that hope, that huge gulf of potential which can be clicked into pieces.
Indian bowling is many ways is that desert, the different players in many ways are the drops of water which render hope but are quickly sucked away by the intense heat and the land returns to its arid self. India being the batting adoring country have always trudged forward more with hope in this desert than any conviction, for the bowlers kept coming in, keeping being sliced away.
This was until India stumbled onto Jasprit Bumrah!
Spotted by the Mumbai Indians scouting team primarily because in a country where being orthodox and following protocol is the norm, Bumrah ran with short strides and his bowling action could never be missed. There was so much unorthodox about him that he was plucked out from obscurity and thrown into the dead end of the IPL against Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.
First ball, oh wow, what was that more importantly who was that, such unique action some said, others just looked elsewhere waiting to burst out to laugh!
Short and wide, Kohli stands tall and cuts it fiercely through point. Obscurity was there for all to see, now the young man was stranded at Wankhede with nowhere to go. That lush green field was more like the desert Indian bowling had become.
Not for Bumrah, he went back, came trotting in, angled the ball back in and hit Kohli right in front of the stumps. Dead, LBW!
Suddenly, India seemed to wake up to another stream of water, and these were not merely drops, these were those elusive rain drops which spring sprouts in the desert.
The journey had begun...
That slinging arm action, the pace which was upwards 140 kph and a very peculiar releasing point, there were all the ingredients in Bumrah for him to carve a niche for himself, a niche he not only carved but dug out the entire wall.
Under the tutelage of Lasith Malinga, another unique beast in modern day white ball cricket, Bumrah stepped up. He had the pace, he now had the control, and he now had the pin-point yorker. Now, there is this thing with Indian cricket and death bowling, at times, bowling machines could have served the purpose better than the Indian bowlers.
Not unless India found Bumrah!
Yes, yorkers were nailed, and now he slowly was gaining the confidence to bring out the whole arsenal of variations and India slowly started striding in this never ending desert with a certain sense of optimism.
MS Dhoni, perhaps the most successful Indian captain had one thing to say after every bowling performance.
"Our death bowling was not up to the mark, our bowlers need to find the yorkers and stop being predictable."
This conundrum plagued the Indian bowling since eternity and no score seemed to be defendable against the bowling attack.
Not unless India found Bumrah!
IPL performances grab all the attention, they deserve all the accolades, but by no means are they enough to warrant selection into the Indian national team, contrary to popular notion after every season.
The National selectors were excited, but they were willing to wait.
Bumrah was roped into the India A squad and dished out regular performances but then a knee injury to his left leg ruled him out for almost four-and-a-half-months in 2014 when perhaps he was at the peak of his prowess.
He came roaring back in the 2015-16 domestic season when his performances screamed out to be noticed; he was the second highest wicket-taker for Gujarat in the Ranji Trophy and then topped the bowling charts in the following Vijay Hazare Trophy - that included a five-for in the List-A final. Gujarat won their List A title, Bumrah shot into the psyche in everyone around Indian cricket.
And then Mohammed Shami broke down in Australia, and Bumrah was flying across the oceans to Australia.
As William Shakespeare said: It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves, and the injured and deluded Bumrah of 2014 received the lucky break.
And towards the end of the season, India won the T20 affair 3-0 and MS Dhoni who was always shaking his head about the Indian performances about the Indian bowling hailed Jasprit Bumrah as the 'find of the season'.
And thus, India had found Bumrah!
It was just the beginning, India lapped him up in the ODI team and the journey was only about to begin, if the promise is positive, the expedition always has the whiff of affirmation.
The dry, infertile desert which was always gaped at India with questions suddenly seemed to be replete with answers. Bumrah was everything a limited overs side needs. He had pace, guile, he could nail his yorkers and he had the variations to flummox the batsmen.
In 19 ODI matches, he has picked up 37 wickets and when he spread his arms and looked towards the sky after scalping his maiden 5-wicket haul against Sri Lanka in the 3rd-ODI his journey seemed to come full circle.
He also picks up wickets with an average of 23.50 at an economy of 4.82; sterling numbers by all means.
In 2016, the diminutive man from Gujarat dominated T20Is; as he notched up 28 wickets. In the final 5 overs which are considered to be the death bed of bowlers, he ensured the batsmen fear him; his economy rate of 6.85 bore testament to his ability.
He might have been plucked from obscurity, he might have stuttered, coughed and wriggled along the way, but in this desert, he has become India's X-factor with the ball.
There is this thing with destiny; it can crush you by eluding your grasp, but when you stride and breach them, the sense of fulfilment is unparalleled.
Destiny has two ways of crushing us - by refusing our wishes and by fulfilling them.
Well, yes he has only played 19 matches, but ask the Indian selectors, when it has come down to Indian bowling, this sample size encapsulated the entire career of bowlers, they even peaked and slipped away all too quickly.
It is short, but such is the promise, that it is very sweet.