T20 WORLD CUP, 2024

Bumrah leaves a mark with legacy-defining WC show

Bumrah's delivery to Jansen turned the game around.
Bumrah's delivery to Jansen turned the game around. ©AFP

Franklyn DaCosta Stephenson is not a name one would typically associate with the West Indies, but the 65-year-old was a pace-bowling all-rounder who never reached the international level. Had he not been banned for participating in a rebel tour of South Africa during the apartheid era, he could have emerged as one of the premier international all-rounders of the 1980s and 1990s. As the youngest player on the 1983/84 rebel tour of South Africa with the West Indies team, he was part of the group that "sowed the seed that grew the beanstalk that was the dismantling of apartheid." He also has an intriguing story to share about Jasprit Bumrah.

"I received a call from my friend in Cape Town, Chris Craven, a day before the final, suggesting that I should persuade the curators to prepare a fast pitch at Kensington Oval. He wanted me to ensure the pitch would not favor the Indian spinners. I told him he was overlooking a bowler named Jasprit Bumrah." The conversation was, of course, in a light-hearted manner, and Stephenson seriously remarked that ignoring Bumrah's value would be a mistake.

In the 1988 English county season for Nottinghamshire, Stephenson scored 1,000 runs and took 100 wickets, finishing the final game with a century in each innings and claiming 11 wickets. Locals who witnessed Stephenson described him as a fiery fast bowler. The Barbados player says Bumrah reminds him of his own bowling.

"He could bowl at any stage, and his impact was due to his unorthodox action. He was unplayable with both the new and old ball, with the ability to open the gap between bat and pad. Marco Jansen's dismissal in the final was an example. He could have gotten David Miller out a few balls earlier," said Stephenson, who played for Orange Free State in South Africa.

Bumrah's recent performances, particularly in the World Cup here in the West Indies, have ignited many tales that will be told for years. One story involves a fast-bowling great claiming that Bumrah would have walked into the legendary West Indies side of the 80s, although Sir Andy Roberts denied making such a comment.

Bumrah is currently dominating conversations in the cricket world. His unorthodox action that creates deception, rooted in geometric principles, is being particularly discussed. His remarkable economy rate of 4.17 and an astonishing average of 8.28 for 15 wickets in eight games have made him the centre of attention. He showcased his lethal prowess in the World Cup, leaving observers debating which of his performances was the standout and which of his 15 wickets was the most crucial.

The South Africans, including David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen, aimed to see off Bumrah and target the other bowlers instead. Jansen adopted a similar strategy but fell victim to a delivery that swung late, dislodging the leg stump bail. With the score at 156 for five, this wicket was crucial, but the value of Reeza Hendricks' early dismissal in the first over cannot be understated. It prevented South Africa from a strong start.

Bumrah conceded only eight runs in his last two overs, finishing with figures of two for 18 in four overs - an economy rate better than his own economy rate for the tournament. If one were to identify the player who had the greatest impact in the World Cup for India, it would undoubtedly be him. It's no surprise he was named the Player of the World Cup.

"I don't know how much I can talk about Bumrah. Obviously, we've been seeing this with him for such a long time now. Whenever he has the ball in hands, he tends to create magic for us every time. I am very lucky to have players like this in my squad. Players who are playing for me and Team India. Really, really grateful, and thankful as well," skipper Rohit Sharma said of his ace bowler after the final. "He's a class act."

It is often said that for someone with such a bowling action, delivering an outswinger from inside the perpendicular would be virtually impossible. However, Bumrah defies physics and geometry, not only mastering the art of bowling outswingers but executing it with authority and imperiousness. He challenges the conventional norms of the game, like a batter who plays 360 degrees without constraints, making him incredibly difficult to bat against. He was most difficult to face when South Africa were in need of 30 off 30 balls with six wickets in hand in the final.

"When it was a run-a-ball, we did think that what is happening, so when I came I saw the ball was a bit scuffed up and it would reverse a bit, so I thought what is the most difficult shot for the batsman, how will he get beaten or I will get a wicket and I thought length ball was an option as ball was reverse-swinging, I was happy that I was able to keep my calm and I was able to execute," Bumrah said of the last two overs that turned the match in India's favour. From an equation of 30 off 30 balls, they slumped to 16 off six balls, only to lose by seven runs eventually.

Whether it's the sharp bouncer, the slower bouncer, or a well-timed slower ball or a yorker - fast or slow - Bumrah can deliver each with deceptive accuracy. There seems to be no type of delivery that he cannot master. Coupled with his unorthodox action, he leaves batters with minimal time to react - an incredibly lethal combination. But the best thing yet about him is to stay rooted to the cause and not get overawed by the situation, like the World Cup final.

"When it comes to the big day, you have to do it even more. You have to do what you have been doing, not to try over because it's the final. So I just felt really good and over the tournament I felt very clear and calm," said Bumrah. Stephenson interpreted that as control. "It's his control with the ball, with his efforts and mind that stands him out," said Stephenson, who is clearly in awe of Bumrah's skills.

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