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Junior Bumrah's IPL fairytale

An action similar to India's pace spearhead is opening a number of doors for young Mahesh Kumar

Mahesh Kumar poses with Virat Kohli, and with Jasprit Bumrah, Bengaluru, March 26, 2019

Mahesh Kumar poses with Virat Kohli, and with Jasprit Bumrah

He gently leans forward, walks briskly for ten steps, and then takes off like an airplane, generating momentum with every step towards the crease. Then the upper body contorts leftward, both arms swinging parallel to each other, and he finishes off with a whippy flourish.
At the other end of the nets at M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, Colin de Grandhomme carts the waist-high full toss into the stands.
The bowler gestures to suggest he intended to bowl a yorker. Ashish Nehra, the coach, pats him on the back and he goes back to the top of his run-up.
The bowler is 22-year-old Mahesh Kumar, a net bowler summoned by Royal Challengers Bangalore to try and get the batsmen used to Jasprit Bumrah.
All the while, the real Bumrah has been watching intently from the Mumbai Indians nets, where he's chatting with Virat Kohli, and has a quiet chuckle as he sees the uncanny resemblance - Mahesh's action is like Bumrah's.
Next ball, Mahesh bowls a half-volley. De Grandhomme straight drives.
Mahesh is clearly fixated on the yorker but can't quite get it right. On his fifth attempt, he finally manages to sneak a slower one underneath Shimron Hetmyer's swinging blade. He is looking out towards Bumrah, who eventually acknowledges him with a thumbs up.
There are no words exchanged, although Mahesh would love to walk up and chat.
The session draws to a close and Nehra calls him to the dressing room. Unaware of what has transpired, the security guards run behind the boy to stop him, but he is eventually permitted to enter. Minutes later, he walks down the stairs with a signed pair of boots from Nehra, an autograph from Kohli, and a 'well bowled' from AB de Villiers. He's been called in to bowl in the nets for all of RCB's home games.
"My four-hour up-and-down journey from Doddaballapura (a small town on the outskirts of Bengaluru) is worth it," he says. Mahesh has already been nicknamed 'Junior Bumrah' in the RCB camp. In his Under-19 days, he was on the fringes of the Karnataka squad. But Mahesh hasn't yet quite made the grade at any serious level. He still has one year to make the state Under-23 squad, but is on the lookout for a club in Bengaluru's first-division league.
Mahesh is an engineering graduate, who wants to devote time to the game now, having completed his "father's dream" of getting a degree. His calling, he feels, is cricket and he draws inspiration from the likes of Varun Chakravarthy, KC Cariappa and others, who have found stardom through net bowling. His popularity has risen so much that his own college has now invited him as the chief guest. Reason: 'Junior Bumrah'. A chance meeting with the original yorker specialist and an Instagram story that went viral.
The meeting was on the eve of India's second T20I against Australia last month. After that, he spent an hour bowling to the visiting team. Troy Cooley, Australia's bowling coach, was startled by the similarity, and is reported to have offered the youngster a chance to trial at his club in Melbourne.
"I'm happy bowling to teams in the nets here, and hope I can get noticed and get a chance," Mahesh says.
Getting noticed certainly won't be a problem. And every fairytale IPL story need not end with a fat pay cheque. Sometimes, it's just about small gestures - like signed boots, an autographed jersey, and a selfie.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo