The Indian skipper Virat Kohli doffed his cap off to Jasprit Bumrah on the way back to the dressing room after Australia had been bundled out for 151 in the first innings of the MCG Test.
The Indian ace pacer had just returned with figures of 6/33 and had made the Australian batsmen dance to his tunes. Here was a bowler who made his debut earlier this year in South Africa. But that debut of his was massively criticized. Virat Kohli and co were questioned for fast-tracking him to Test cricket and how he might not be successful in the longest form of the game.
However, the year has almost come to an end and this same Bumrah is finishing the year as India’s premier speedster across formats. In the nine Test matches (with one innings left), he’s picked up 45 wickets which is the joint-most by an Indian.
Mohammed Shami also has the same number of scalps but has played three Tests more than Bumrah. In a year where team selection has cost multiple Test matches, Bumrah’s selection is one to be proud of.
The way Bumrah has bowled this year especially in red-ball cricket has been remarkable. He has become Kohli’s go-to bowler for every situation. If Kohli needs a wicket, Bumrah is summoned, if he needs to stem the run-flow, Bumrah is summoned. If the pressure needs to be maintained from one end, Bumrah is summoned.
Sanjay Manjrekar aptly summarized Bumrah when he tweeted, “Bumrah is the bowling equivalent of the 360 degrees batsman.”
In this series, the Gujarat pacer had bowled extremely well and was the pick of the Indian pacers. However, he didn’t have a heap of wickets to show for his efforts. But you could sense that Bumrah was one the verge of a big spell.
He had picked up 11 wickets in the series but had bowled a lot better than what those numbers suggest. He had gone past the bat on numerous times and had the batsmen in strife on multiple occasions. However, all came together at the MCG as he blew away the Australian batting line-up with a magnificent spell.
The opening burst
To start off with, Bumrah bowled three overs in the dying moments of the second day. He had produced three real testing overs and had both Marcus Harris and Aaron Finch in trouble. He was unlucky not to pick up a wicket.
However, he was at it again on the third morning. The first couple of overs he bowled were quiet. But every now and then there was one that kept low and threatened the stumps and the pads.
It was in his fourth over of the morning that he produced the breakthrough (to give India their second wicket) as he bounced out Harris. That was the only wicket of his first spell in the first session. He had bowled five very good overs and had hardly given anything away.
Outsmarting Shaun Marsh on the final ball before Lunch
Then came another burst before Lunch and it was just a three-over spell. And off the last ball before the lunch interval, he produced a moment of brilliance. He foxed Shaun Marsh with a brilliant slower delivery which dipped on him and trapped him in front.
The setup was simply outstanding. Every ball of that over was over 140 kmph and he bowled a slower yorker at 111 kmph to pick up his second wicket. He later revealed that it was Rohit Sharma’s idea to bowl the slower delivery but the execution was simply brilliant.
The short yet effective burst after Lunch
After Lunch, he knocked over Travis Head with a full in-dipper to leave Australia reeling at 92/5. He bowled just three overs in the second session but he delivered a crucial blow with the wicket of Head who is Australia’s leading run-getter in the series.
Wrapping up things in the final session
After Tea, Bumrah was at his absolute best as he blew away the last three wickets to give India a massive 292-run lead. He first had Tim Paine edging behind the stumps. He got one to angle away from the Aussie skipper who hung his bat out and edged to Rishabh Pant who took a good low catch. Nathan Lyon was trapped in front with an inswinging yorker and Bumrah got to the much deserved five-wicket haul.
Josh Hazlewood was castled off a full delivery to end the innings. Bumrah completed a six-wicket, 6/33, his best figures in his short nine-Test career. This was his third fifer in this year and he became the first Asian bowler to take a five-wicket haul in each of England, South Africa and Australia in the same calendar year.
After what has been a somewhat luckless first two Tests, Bumrah finally got the reward for some fine bowling. His spell of 6/33 ensured India are in the driver’s seat and also have some time in the game to bat again.
In this series, no bowler has beaten the bat as many times Bumrah has. According to CricViz, Bumrah has gone past the edge or drawn the edge, once every four deliveries. That stat just highlights the 25-year-old pacer’s consistency.
From being a T20 specialist (or rather a limited-overs specialist) to India’s first-choice Test pacer (Kohli’s go-to man), Bumrah has come a long way. He has the most wickets by an Indian bowler in his debut calendar year. His rise has been phenomenal and his ability to learn quickly has been the hallmark of this short journey. It still surprises a lot of people how he generates the pace from such a short run-up and an awkward action.
Bumrah is a prized commodity in Indian cricket. If Virat Kohli is India’s superstar, then so is Bumrah. A year ago, he was on the plane to South Africa, unsure of a place in India's Test XI, but Kohli backed him and here he is, India’s new all-format superstar.