You know all is not well when your premier fast bowler is grabbing his cap from the ump in disgust, and smashing the bails off the stumps on his way back to the dressing room. You know it's worse than you imagined when he refuses to shake hands with his teammates, and even parries an anodynous pat on the back from his skip. You know it is petrifyingly horrorsome when he does that two matches in a row. You gasp so hard that your chin touches the floor when you know the said bowler is Jasprit Bumrah.
Is Jasprit Bumrah developing a habit, or are teams successfully developing a habit against him? It is a popular theory lurking around that the top teams play him out, whereas the more mortal sides make the grave mistake of treating him like the others. Or at least his record suggests so, averaging in the high 30s against England, Australia and New Zealand.
Bumrah is a confidence bowler. You can sniff it in the air when he's in the zone. Rummage the cricket field with your pair of binoculars, and even when he's not bowling he'll catch your eyes first, when he's in the zone. He's tall, strapping, frowning, twitching his lips, adjusting his sleeves, hiding the ball, skipping steps, and transitioning on his run-up from sly fox to incoming Halley's Comet in quick, robotic fashion. You wonder if his neck is paying homage to the 22.1 degrees tilt of the Earth's axis. That's the Jasprit Bumrah swagger, the way we know it.
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It's a different man altogether on show this Tuesday. His shoulders are dropping, and he isn't biting his lower lip on his run-up. He's shouting cusses at his fielders who're hell-bent on giving away the extra run. His stare is scary enough to tell you he's angry, and Jasprit Bumrah has been staring his fielders down more than usual in New Zealand. He isn't enjoying the ball beating the bat or the edge being produced, he's clasping his hands in exasperation over the ball that has gone to no-man's land. And just when he seems like he's getting into the groove, there are two catches dropped off his bowling.
Sometimes, you pull the Town sheriff out of his bed earlier than advised, because offences in the jurisdiction are on the rise, when he himself is taking treatment for a broken back. The results are always horrendous.Bumrah's figures since his comeback read 0-50, 1-32, 0-38, 0-53, 0-64 and 0-50.
You wonder how often he's gone without breakfast in the buffet hall over the last one month.
Everyone tells Bumrah this is the first major setback he's having to face in his career. Everyone tells him stamping their authority over injury is the ultimate litmus test for a fast bowler. He needs to lock himself up in the shower, free himself up from all the noise on the outside, and think.
Nobody called it a setback when for the first time in his international career, he could not nail a single yorker bowling in the death, and went at 7.86 runs per over averaging 45.60 against England when they toured India in 2017. Nobody labelled it a whammy when he conceded runs in heaps in the death for Mumbai Indians in 2018, and slumped in confidence to the point where coach Jayawardhane had to put his arm around his shoulder, and reassured him that he was still their best bowler. Nobody spelt the word 'hitch' when a fiercely struck ball hit him on the palm on his follow-through, three weeks ahead of the announcement of the World Cup squad, and he walked off the ground squirming in pain, breathing so heavily that you could hear him on your TV sets, scared out of his wits, with his pessimistic half telling him his World Cup dreams could be over. And most recently, when he twisted his ankle on his landing in the last over of the 4th T20I in New Zealand, which could have potentially made way for a six-month layoff. You are living in a fool's paradise if you think this is his first major setback.
You know Bumrah will be back when he is smiling at a misfield off his own bowling. You know Bumrah will be back when he is pulling up his sleeves on his delivery stride. You know Bumrah will be back when he is biting his lower lip in aggression, and coming down at the batsman like he's the fastest bowler in the world. You know he is back when you're talking about the bowlers around him, and not a pair of bails he has knocked off while walking back to the dressing room.
Jasprit Jasbirsingh Bumrah will be back with a bang, and you know it.