Jasprit Bumrah: The right arm is quick and terrific

Jasprit Bumrah: Right arm fast. The categorization oversimplifies Bumrah. He is many in one – a general dealer in new balls; old ball virtuoso, stitch artist; ultimate length manipulator, all-round freak of nature, mascot and winner, icon and entertainer. On Saturday he was everything, more than everything and pure theater too.

There are many reasons for viewers to flock to watch him live or turn on the TV when he completes this unique act of his. Apart from the sense of achievement that will grow over the years just by being there the day Bumrah did it, the desperation to almost be a part of it in some small way, Bumrah brings something for everyone. For the masses, he delivers the visceral thrill of supersonic fast bowling that scatters stumps and blasts pads; for purists, the joy of its fine subtleties; for scientists, the mechanics of its action; for the disciples of the game, light of enlightenment; and for the spectators watching from the stands, a song to their tune, a beat to their beat.

If Bumrah doesn’t make you fall in love with cricket, perhaps nothing this decade in cricket will.

He started Super Saturday, exceeding his own powers to entertain. His 16-ball 31 was both pantomime and cult. He consigned Stuart Broad, he of the vintage headband and 550 Test wickets, to another piece of cricketing infamy – 35 runs in an over, 31 runs from his bat. No one has ever scored as many runs in a single over in Tests as Bumrah – not Rishabh Pant or Virender Sehwag; not Brian Lara or Viv Richards.

Using the word ‘score’ to refer to these 31 runs hardly does it justice or captures the essence of these 31 runs. You could call it a fluke, a freak or even a farce, but it all embellished the entertainment package that is Bumrah. It would have been one of the most chaotic overs ever in cricket – a top-order four that just eluded the long-leg fielder, five wides, six over the no-ball, a French four, a lift that ended as he smashed into the surface (ala Pant), a pulled six over single leg (ala Gordon Greenidge) and a comical single.

In the middle, Bumrah was rolling with laughter with his partner Mohammed Siraj. So were his teammates in the locker room. But to gauge the impact of his knock, fortuitous as it was, one only had to look closely at the face of Broad and his captain Ben Stokes. Broad looked as pale as someone trapped by a ghost in a Gothic castle; Stokes, for the first time since becoming captain, looked dazed, leaving it up to fate to weather the storm.

Those 35 runs not only took India to 416, a target that looked impossible when they were 100/5 at one stage, but also probably destroyed them psychologically. The last three added 93 and the last pair 41 runs. It wasn’t the first time he hurt England with the bat – his 34 not out at Lord’s and 24 at the Oval were useful runs. Don’t call it a one-size-fits-all just yet, though. Stokes blew out a sigh of relief when the partnership eventually ended as James Anderson absorbed Siraj for his 32nd five-wicket haul in Tests.

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Then the real storm kicked up. Bumrah with the new ball. His transformation from fool to executioner. From Robin Williams to Al Pacino. He had bowled 6,052 balls in Test cricket before coming in from the Birmingham City End. Every step, every movement, every quirk, every cell of his bowling body may have been dissected, but he remains untamed. There are batsmen who have played it well but have not mastered it. Joe Root has been successful against India in the Bumrah era, but Bumrah has bowled him six times. It is a lesson that great bowlers can decode but not master. They find their ways, plot their plot, sometimes resorting to routine.

Just like Bumrah did Alex Lees. After softening it up with the visitors beyond the stumps, he rounded the stumps and slid one onto his stumps. Zach Crowley and Olly Pope were ejected in the same way, cut behind flashers away from the body. He found more zip and pinch than most English bowlers; he suffocated and suffocated them with pace, bounce and movement from the surface. So the sight, rather an illusion, of a loose ball lit up their eyes. England reeled to 44/3 before Root and Bairstow made the recovery move before Siraj removed Joe Root.

But it was another day where Bumrah ran the show, unpacking one role after another. Bumrah: Right arm fast. Everything. More than all. Pure theater.

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