For all the talks about his action, Jasprit Bumrah has enjoyed a memorable debut year in Tests © Getty
From a memorable Test debut in Cape Town, when he single-handedly brought India back into the game and gave them a winning chance, to a nine-wicket haul in Melbourne, followed by a historic series win against Australia in their backyard, Jasprit Bumrah has enjoyed a phenomenal first year in Test cricket. In a freewheeling chat with TOI, the 25-year-old opens up about his cricket. Excerpts…
None other than Dennis Lillee says you remind him of Jeff Thomson, who also had an unusual action. Being different can have its benefits…
I’ve always been like this. I don’t take a lot of opinions seriously. Opinions change by the day, every hour, depending on what you bring to the table (how you perform). You can’t be taking every opinion seriously. What I try and do is I always focus on my strengths – what I can do, how far can I push myself – and I back them up with the best effort I can put in. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody can help you. That’s something I’ve spent a good deal of time telling myself.
The Cape Town Test, last year – your spells in the first innings and the second innings polarised opinions. Those watching you for the first time developed a viewpoint after watching you bowl on Day One and some changed opinions after your Day Four spell…
I heard some of those opinions. I didn’t take them seriously then, don’t do that now. I take very few people seriously in my life. As a child growing up, I had a different action and people didn’t waste any time telling me that. I used to be inundated with suggestions on what I need to do and don’t. I didn’t listen to any of that. Never. It’s not like I don’t listen but what I do know is that at all times, I’ve got to find a way out on my own.
That has given me a lot of self-belief – the idea of going and finding a way on my own. When I’m low, it is the same mindset that helps me today. Backing yourself is the best an individual can gift himself.
How do you get your yorker so right?
As a kid, I played a lot of tennis ball cricket and with the tennis ball, you can bowl only one kind of a delivery. There’s length in question, no bouncers. There’s only one ball that you have to practise. At that time, I played for fun. But later, when you start playing serious cricket, you realise the importance of that delivery. But not that because it naturally comes to me, I don’t have to keep practising it. It still takes the same amount of hard work to get it right in a match situation. I do spend enough hours now trying to get all the little things correct. The line, the length, the bounce. The game now actively involves playing three formats that are very different from each other. So, there’s constant work to be done to stay in tune with each of them.
For an outsider, it’s normal to hear talk like ‘let’s see how long Bumrah lasts with that kind of action’. Then again, there are guys who’ve had unusual actions and gone on to carve a niche for themselves. Your perspective.
As a bowler, I’ve come to the realisation that no action is perfect. Tell me a bowler who’s not been a victim of injuries. Some have suffered more, some less. But that’s part of the game and specially in today’s times when there’s so much cricket to be played. When you bowl in a certain manner, your body adapts. Then to become stronger, stay fitter, you’ve got to keep putting in that much effort. International cricket is hard work. It requires constant innovation and training.
We rarely see you swearing at batsmen, giving them send-offs, talking aloud. A conscious effort to not get personal? Fast bowlers tend to be aggressive and love displaying it…
That aggression is there, of course. In fact, when I started playing the game, I used to be really assertive, trying to sledge batsmen, giving send-offs. But then, as I continued playing, I realised, all said it wasn’t helping me bowl better. I would drift away from my set of plans, not be able to execute in the manner I thought and stuff like that. That’s when I began to realise something here wasn’t working. I had to channelise that aggression and let it show in my stride and delivery. Just mouthing off would make no sense. Any way, if the ball is doing the talking, it’s enough. I don’t need to talk.
From January 2018 (Cape Town), till now, name a spell or a wicket that’s become your favourite. Something you’ve cherished.
No favourites as such. Debut in Cape Town, a series win in Australia – what can be more wonderful than that? You know, now that I look back, small things that happened between spells, between innings, how wonderfully I got to learn with each passing game. The first innings in Cape Town for instance, I bowled, learnt what kind of line was required there, what the conditions demanded. And then coming back in the second innings keeping those aspects in mind, doing what was required – that is what I cherish.
“Rohit used to back me with a lot of space then and he does it now” © BCCI
But there must be some wicket that you might remember for the way you planned, plotted rather, and it worked?
The third Test in England, Trent Bridge. I had missed the first two Tests and was making a comeback and there was so much talk already – in the England camp – they’d seen some videos, there was some analysis and all they did and there were experts there who said ‘this guy has only one type of delivery’, etc. Some claimed I only had an away delivery for left-handers. I said fine, if this is what they’re thinking, then I have a bit of an advantage here. Because they don’t know that I have an out-swinger as well. I remember I was bowling to Keaton Jennings and I started with two away deliveries. I teased him by moving slightly over the wicket before bringing one back in slightly. It turned out to be just enough. Small joys are the best ones.
As a kid growing up, you must have heard of pace attacks from all around the world. The legendary West Indians, the very talented Pakistan pacers, menacing Australians. But to now see an Indian pace attack being celebrated comes across as a fresh breath of air…
When we landed in South Africa (last year), the pace plan was clear – to concentrate on 20 wickets. Now the thing is, please look at what we (as a pace bowling unit) were up to in the nets – bowling to some of the best batsmen in the world (bowling to India batsmen during practice). The best feeling for us (pace unit) is that today we’re being talked about. I’ll agree with that. Today, we can give it back to the opposition in their backyard. And that’s satisfying. As a unit, we’ve been able to create pressure and at the same time, maintained a healthy competition among ourselves.
Bharat Arun and Shane Bond – two coaches who’ve seen you up and close. Talk about their contributions.
Bharat Arun has known me since my Under-19 days. When I went to the National Cricket Academy (NCA), that was the first time he saw me. Usually, when a coach sees a bowler for the first time, there’s bound to be some discussion on technique. In my case, there was going to be all the more reason, given the focus around my action. But when he saw me, his first reaction was – you don’t need to change anything about your action. His thinking was – if we ask the boy to change his action even minutely, we won’t know what we’re going to lose. Just allow him to be and it’ll only make him stronger. I didn’t work much with him after that for a while until I made it to the Indian team.
Then, at Mumbai Indians, I came across Shane Bond. I had come back from injuries and was looking to find my feet again and a kind of a new journey began with him.
Rohit Sharma has been your captain at Mumbai Indians and never ceases to praise you, right from the time you made your debut with the franchise…
He’s seen me before I was an India player and he’s seeing me now. He’s seen phases that I’ve been through. The thing with Rohit is, he’s never been different with me. He used to back me with a lot of space then and he does it now. He’ll come, ask me what I see or believe in, set the field accordingly and then keeps backing me up all the time. Some days it works, some days it doesn’t but it’s always so reassuring.