The talking point ahead of the Bangalore-Mumbai game was Jasprit Bumrah, a 19-year-old seamer from Ahmedabad who was handpicked by the Mumbai Indians after a decent show in the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
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Bumrah, yet to play a First Class game, took 10 wickets for Gujarat in the tournament. His bowling action caught the eye today, as did his three wickets on IPL debut.
He completes his short run-up with small steps a la Guy Whittal. He has a whippy arm action that reminds you of Sohail Tanvir, and his right-arm is so frighteningly straight during the release, you wonder how it manages to generate those speeds of 130-plus KMPH. The traces of grass on the Chinnaswamy Stadium wicket helped too.
It’s the sort of strange action you’d spot in the maidaans or at club games where there are no coaches to meddle with young players. Kapil Dev commented that the awkwardness of the action reminded him of Colin Croft.
Bumrah was handed his Mumbai cap today by Sachin Tendulkar with what looked like a short, passionate speech and a firm pat on his shoulder. Despite that encouragement, Bumrah was all nerves in his first over and bowled some off-side trash.
Bowling off the edge of the crease and trying to angle the ball into the right-hander, Bumrah bowled three balls short and wide. Virat Kohli punished him for three fours, twice over the cover and once through it.
Bumrah looks much younger than his 19 years. At this point, you felt sorry for his punishment at Kohli’s hands. Suddenly, two of the greatest batsmen of all time – Tendulkar and his captain Ricky Ponting – came running to his side, encouraging him, calming him down, telling him it will be all right.
Fate intervened. Maybe the bowling crease was actually slippery. Maybe it was Mumbai’s tactical masterstroke. Bumrah called for some sawdust to sprinkle at the crease. The game was held up for a few minutes. It was enough to disrupt Kohli’s free-scoring ways. Bumrah gathered himself, straightened his line and hit Kohli plumb in front of the stumps to take a wicket in his first IPL over.
Two balls later, Mayank Agarwal attempted to loft Bumrah down the ground, but his timing was atrocious and the young bowler was getting a lot of zip off the wicket. The shot ended up an easy catch in Tendulkar’s hands at mid-off and Bumrah had another wicket.
Bumrah took some punishment from Chris Gayle in between. He was hit for a couple of sixes and a four, but he managed to take another wicket with Karun Nayar falling LBW to another of his in-cutters.
After the innings, Bumrah said he was nervous. “It happens,” he said reeling off his answers to the interviewer in sentences as short as his run-up. “It was my first match.”
Bumrah was the surprise package today and caught his opponents unawares. The challenge for him would be to retain the freshness in his bowling, and to keep developing his bag of tricks. After all, the IPL is a tough competition and the next game will be a whole new challenge.