Boom, Boom Bumrah: How India's newest Test captain broke stereotypes to find red-ball success - India Today

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It's remarkable that Jasprit Bumrah is set to become only the 2nd fast bowler after the legendary Kapil Dev to lead India in Test cricket. Having made his Test debut only 4 years ago, Bumrah has risen through the ranks at an incredible pace. In fact, Bumrah has not led a team in any level of representative cricket, but he will become the country's 36th Test captain on Friday, July 1.

Bumrah caught the attention of the cricket world with his unorthodox bowling action for Mumbai Indians in the IPL. Unlike a 'typical fast bowler', Bumrah doesn't have a long run-up, or a big leap at the crease before the delivery, but the Gujarat pacer has found success with his own inimitable style.

Not many would have envisioned Bumrah rattling the stumps with the red-ball in hand when he first donned the Mumbai Indians' blue. In fact, Bumrah was typecast as a white-ball specialist, but perceptions, or as the Indian cricket team calls it, "outside noise", have never mattered much to Bumrah, who has a good head on his young shoulders.

Bumrah hates the notion that the IPL paved the way for his selection into the Indian cricket team. He calls it a 'myth'. In fact, the Ahmedabad bowler had played only 17 matches in the first 3 years of his IPL career with Mumbai Indians.

Like every aspiring cricketer, Bumrah too loved the red-ball format. But his success in limited-overs cricket, especially with his incredibly different bowling action, led to him being stereotyped.

WHEN SHASTRI 'UNLEASHED' BUMRAH

However, former head coach Ravi Shastri and former bowling coach Bharat Arun thought otherwise, thankfully.

In 2018, Bumrah was "unleashed" in Test cricket in South Africa. Shastri had said he was particular about Bumrah not playing at home before he made his debut in the longest format of the game.

India's secret red-ball weapon was unleashed in Cape Town. There has been no looking back for him ever since.

"No one believed Jasprit Bumrah could play Test cricket. He was a white-ball bowler. But when I took over as coach I asked myself: 'How do I take 20 wickets overseas?," Shastri had told The Guardian.

"I wanted to unleash Bumrah in that first Test in Cape Town. I bounced the idea off Virat months before and told the selectors: 'Do not unleash him in India. I don't want the world to see him in Test cricket before Cape Town'."

Well, Shastri's bold call gave India one of its finest all-format bowlers.

In 29 matches spread across 4 years in Test cricket, Bumrah has picked up 123 wickets, including 8 5-wicket hauls at a staggering average of 21.73. With every passing game in whites, Bumrah has evolved into a better red-ball bowler.

The former head coach would have been a proud man on Friday when the Board of Control for Cricket in India named Bumrah as the stand-in captain for the rescheduled 5th Test against Birmingham against England after regular skipper Rohit Sharma failed to recover in time from Covid-19.

Bumrah could not hide his joy when he was asked about the feeling of becoming India captain, in Test cricket. "This is a big achievement, a big honour," he said while speaking to the press on the eve of thr Birmingham Test.

"For me, playing a Test match was a dream and getting such an opportunity is probably one of the biggest achievements of my career. I am very happy that I have been given this opportunity."

PROVING NAYSAYERS WRONG

Doubts were raised about his ability to remain fit, considering his unique bowling action but Bumrah, with effective workload management from the selectors and the leadership group, has managed to prove his naysayers wrong.

Bumrah is now someone who can trouble the best in the business by swinging the ball both ways and is a good exponent of the reverse swing as well. But when he started out in Tests, there was another popular perception that he bowled only outswingers to left-handers.

However, in only his 5th Test, in Southampton in 2018, Bumrah let the world know that he has a lethal inswinger to left-handers. England batter Keaton Jennings learned it the hard way.

FUTURE FULL-TIME CAPTAIN?

Bumrah's elevation to the Test captaincy is not just a reward for his bowling exploits, but his incredible game awareness. The India pacer doesn't hold himself back from using his white-ball skills in Tests. And, it is safe to say that red-ball cricket has made him evolve into one of the best in the world.

The slower-ball yorker to Shaun Marsh at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2018 or the wonderful set-up to dismiss Ollie Robinson at Lord's in 2021 are a testament to the fact that Bumrah always tries to be a step ahead of the opposition batters.

When he steps out on the field in Birmingham with the India blazer on July 1, Bumrah will be addressed as 'stand-in' captain. But not many would be surprised if the lion-hearted pacer leads India in whites many more times in the future.

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