Jasprit Bumrah - the Reality Era superstar

Bumrah chooses to stay "stable," and when he doesn't have the results to show for his work, he doesn't get too down on himself

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
A lot of fast bowlers build themselves a character. Curtly Ambrose never did interviews while he played, almost becoming this mythical, impenetrable figure immune to human failings. Mohammad Asif almost always sounded contemptuous of batters in his interviews, once famously ruing that AB de Villiers got out too early, thus denying him the joy of a full set up and the payoff. Most often, they are the rockstars of cricket: eccentric, individualistic and definitely not pop. They make you believe nothing is beyond them.
After a point, fast bowling becomes a way of living. They don't stop being a fast bowler after six hours of play. Like the old-time professional wrestlers who never broke kayfabe. No wonder a lot of fast bowlers like pro wrestling. Big Boss Man, this big monster heel in kayfabe, once smashed the door of his car's boot on his hand in the presence of fans. He showed no pain. When Jake "The Snake" Roberts was a kid, his father Grizzly Smith used to tell him how he was planning to take the family out of town because his wrestling adversaries were coming after him. Then of course the Internet broke down the fourth wall to usher in the Reality Era where wrestlers hardly stay in character outside the shows.
If he ever were to be a pro wrestler, Jasprit Bumrah would belong to the Reality Era. When he does well - sorry, when the result on the day is good, as Bumrah would, and others should, describe it - and when the accolades are flowing, Bumrah doesn't add to any myth-building. Instead, he chooses to stay real - stable, in his words. When Bumrah doesn't have the results to show for his work, he doesn't get too down on himself.
Only last Monday and Tuesday, Bumrah was part of an attack that failed to defend 377 in the fourth innings of a Test. They didn't even come close to threatening England. He himself went at 4.35 runs an over. A week later, against the same batters, Bumrah has six wickets in a little over seven overs in an ODI. Of course, Bumrah bowled beautifully at The Oval, swinging the ball mesmerizingly and also getting seam movement from the pitch, but what he tried wasn't much different to what he does on his worst days.
"This is the beauty of cricket, isn't it?" Bumrah said when asked how he reconciles with such wildly swinging fortunes when it comes to the results. "One day you will see everything is going in your favour. Another day you can try whatever you want, but it doesn't work for you. That is exactly why you need to keep a stable head.
"Every day is a new day. There will be days when you will get the edge first ball, there will be days you will bowl similarly all day but not get a single edge. You don't want to get desperate in these scenarios. That is why I rate stability a lot. Because at the end of the day there is very little in your hand. Once a bowler has let the ball go, there is nothing in his control.
"Sometimes you will bowl well, get the edge, but the catch will be dropped. Sometimes the ball will pass over the stumps. Sometimes a full toss will get you a wicket. That doesn't mean you bowl more full tosses. So I only try to prepare what I can. And not think of what is not in my hand. After that whatever is the result, I accept and move on."
Then it is probably not a good idea to ask Bumrah if this was as well as he has bowled. "I don't look at end results and judge my bowling," Bumrah said. "There have been instances when I have bowled so much better than this and not gotten wickets. But I always looked at following the same routine. Yes, today was a day where the white ball swung and there was some seam movement. So yeah, I wanted to exploit that.
"When we started the innings, we saw there was some seam and swing. So [Mohammed] Shami bhai and I had a conversation and decided we should bowl a little fuller and try and bowl the Test-match length. It was a good day that we got the wickets. And there was some help in the beginning, and the wicket was also on the softer side."
"Today was a good day. It will bring a lot of praise. But neither do I get too happy with praise nor do I get too down with criticism."
Jasprit Bumrah
Fast bowling is a tough job but it is also an optimist's job. You are, after all, cheating your body into performing acts it was not built to do. Accordingly, many fast bowlers internalise that they are the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be. Bumrah? He doesn't even take it seriously when a respected pundit such as Nasser Hussain calls him the best bowler across formats today.
"I don't focus on these things," Bumrah said. "Today was a good day. It will bring a lot of praise. But neither do I get too happy with praise nor do I get too down with criticism. I don't look at it this way: I am here, I am very good in all formats. I enjoy every format. I try to do what I can. I respect what people say but I don't take it seriously. Very grateful for the applause you get but I always try to keep a stable head. That's how I will always be."
This is how cricket is, and will be. Most cricketers and fans don't like talking about luck and conditions because of the popular perception that luck or reliance on conditions is the opposite of skill. It couldn't be farther from the truth.
This has been a weird year in England in which the Dukes Test balls have moved less and gone soft sooner than usual, but the white Kookaburra has been swinging more than it does and for longer. On top of that Bumrah got a green pitch on a muggy afternoon. That he said made his job easier: he just had to bowl line and length and let the ball do the rest as opposed to making things happen on flat ODI decks. The edges came readily, none fell short, and half chances stuck.
This is a real description of the events at The Oval. And also, by extension, at Edgbaston. This is Bumrah's description. A Reality Era description.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo