Cricketers of the year

Jasprit Bumrah

Wisden Cricketers of the Year 2022: Jasprit Bumrah

Nagraj Gollapudi
Jasprit Bumrah appeals, India vs Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Bengaluru, 2nd day, March 13, 2022

Jasprit Bumrah appeals  •  BCCI

Anger, says Jasprit Bumrah with a smile, used to come naturally to him - and on the last morning of the Second Test at Lord's, he was angry. On the third evening, India's fielders had exchanged words with James Anderson. Bumrah had just bowled him a ten-ball over, including four no-balls and plenty of short stuff. Anderson was unimpressed, India unrepentant.
On the final morning, as Bumrah walked out to bat with the Test tantalisingly poised, he knew his arrival would stir things up. But instead of facing the forensic Anderson, he was confronted by the ferocious Mark Wood, who sent three bouncers his way. And instead of breaking through, England lost control. Despite having reached double figures only once in 30 Test innings before this series, Bumrah added an unbroken 89 for India's ninth wicket with Mohammed Shami, not much of a batsman either. The momentum had shifted.
Bumrah is just happy that, unlike England, he kept his emotions in check. "I don't get intimidated," he says. "When I started playing cricket, I used to be ready for a fight. So this was like playing a game when I was a child. I just wanted to be in the moment, and not forget I had a job to do. It's not a wrestling competition. So, yeah, emotion got the better of them."
But his batting, important though it was, was a bonus: it was his bowling that unsettled England. At Trent Bridge, his match haul of nine wickets might have led to victory had rain not washed out the last day. Now, at Lord's, where England needed to survive 60 overs, Bumrah and Shami picked up a wicket each in the first two. Bumrah removed Root in the first over of the final session, but Jos Buttler and Ollie Robinson knuckled down. Bumrah put his T20 thinking cap on, and went round the wicket to Robinson. "I thought he was expecting the yorker, so I kept in mind that he will not be expecting a slower ball." He was hit on the pad and, after a review, out lbw. "That opened the door," says Bumrah. Next over, Mohammed Siraj charged through it, sealing a memorable win.
Fast forward to the last afternoon of the Fourth Test at The Oval. With the series all square, Bumrah turned it in India's favour with another unforgettable spell. England had begun resolutely in pursuit of 368; the sun was out, the pitch a road. But he pushed himself to counter the conditions. His key weapon, other than high pace, was the reverse swing he had learned during long spells for Gujarat in the Ranji Trophy. Now, in successive overs, he burst through the defences of Ollie Pope - making Bumrah the fastest Indian seamer to 100 Test wickets, in his 24th game - and Jonny Bairstow. Once again, he had opened the door to victory.
JASPRIT JASBIRSINGH BUMRAH was born on December 6, 1993, in Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat, on India's western flank. When he was eight, his father, Jasbir, passed away following a sudden illness; Jasbir's family immediately cut ties with Bumrah's mother, Daljit. A teacher, she stretched her schedule to fit in one-on-one tuition, and make ends meet for Jasprit and his sister, Juhika.
At 13, Bumrah asked Daljit to allow him to pursue his cricketing dream. She was uncertain, but had seen her son watching the game, transfixed, on television, and endlessly hurling tennis balls against the wall in their small apartment. Knowing his greatest strength was his self-belief, Daljit crossed her fingers - and agreed.
In 2010, Bumrah was spotted by a local Gujarat Cricket Association administrator, Anil Patel, who encouraged him to join the state Under-19 side; the following year, five days before he turned 18, he was playing for them. Team-mates, coaches and selectors wondered who this stick-thin fast bowler was, with speed and an action they could barely comprehend.
In 2013, he made his debut - a T20 game - for Gujarat's senior team. Watching his second match was former New Zealand captain John Wright, then head coach at Mumbai Indians. "Real wheels," he told ESPNcricinfo. Bumrah joined Mumbai Indians that season. Hit for three boundaries in his first four balls on IPL debut by Virat Kohli, he trapped him with the fifth, on his way to three for 32.
He produced yorkers at will, and flummoxed batters with his underwhelming, though unique, approach to the crease - described by one writer last summer as resembling a "dressage horse being put through its paces" - his sleights of hand, changes of pace and ramrod-straight arm. He soon became one of the world's best death-over specialists, often unhittable. Above all, he turned himself into a lethal fast bowler.
He has also played a crucial part in India's improved record abroad. Between his Test debut at Cape Town in January 2018 and the premature end of the series in England, no bowler in the world had come close to his 97 wickets away from home (Shami was next, with 76). Indeed, until he was selected against England at Chennai in February 2021, he had not even played a Test in India, the result of rest and rotation, plus a back problem; by then, he had earned 17 caps away from home. But an average of 22 suggested he has relished the various challenges posed by overseas conditions, with five-fors in Johannesburg, Nottingham (twice), Melbourne, Antigua and Jamaica.
And like all great fast men, Bumrah creates a buzz, a sense of an impending event. In his own words, he enjoys conjuring "something when there is nothing". V. V. S. Laxman has compared his variations to those of Wasim Akram, but Bumrah says: "My biggest strength is not any skill I possess. My biggest strength, I feel, is my mind: if I am in control of everything - of what I'm thinking and how I'm evaluating a situation - then I feel I am in a very good space. Nobody can enter that bubble, and nobody can cause any trouble."

Nagraj Gollapudi