For most part of his career, Bumrah’s unorthodox action and natural ability with the ball have dominated discussions.The cerebral aspect of his bowling is often ignored. All of his four wickets in his spell of 4/39 on Wednesday were well set up.
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Bumrah makes the job easier for the rest of the bowling lineup in the middle overs. He covers up for more than one bowler having an off day. Wednesday was an off day for Mohammed Siraj as the Afghanistan batters feasted off him, milking 76 runs from his nine overs. But Bumrah had set the tone for the seamers on a flat track. The unusual prominent layering of grass on the surface here at the Arun Jaitley Stadium notwithstanding, Bumrah stuck to the hard lengths outside off stump.
Indian cricket has been crippled by the lack of a steady sixth bowling option in ODI cricket for some time now. When Bumrah isn’t around, India’s problems in this area are magnified.
Yuzvendra Chahal, when he was at the peak of his powers in 2018, had told TOI that much of his and Kuldeep’s success must be attributed to potency of Bumrah and Bhuveneshwar Kumar up front with the new ball. Wednesday was another example.
The dipping slower balls, the searing yorkers and the lethal bouncers often hog the analysis. Yet, Bumrah’s ability to read the pitch quickly and find his length is rare. Ironically, the Test-match length is his most potent weapon. Those variations did come into play, but only in the latter stages of Afghanistan’s innings.
Following his spell and Siraj’s wayward show, backup seamers Hardik Pandya and Shardul Thakur refrained from trying anything fancy and stuck to the back-of-a-length deliveries to return figures of 1/31 in six overs. The wickets were hard to come by but so were the runs on a track that resembles batting on a concrete pitch with synthetic balls.
There have been heated debates over the Ashwin-vs-Shardul quandary. Shardul’s propensity to leak runs in exchange of an odd wicket has always been brought up against Ashwin’s guile in the middle overs. Shardul for once resorted to the hard back-of-a-length delivery.
The deal is simple: Bumrah stifles the opposition so much in the first 10 overs that the batters are left with no option but to go after the following bowlers. All they need to do is stick to the discipline that Bumrah starts with. Shardul did that on Wednesday and probably assured a place in the XI on flat decks.