Jasprit Bumrah’s spell on Monday reminded me of Pakistan fast bowlers of our time. There’s a similarity with Wasim Akram. Bumrah, too, hurries batsmen, not only in their shots, but in their set-up as well.
When you start facing a fast bowler from a young age, a certain set-up gets internalised. You expect a fast bowler to run in from at least 25 yards. You set yourself up accordingly. But when the likes of Akram and Bumrah bowl (from a much shorter run-up), a batsman’s routine in terms of settling down, backing/adjusting his technique, gets disturbed. It’s not about having difficulty in picking the line. It’s about having a smaller margin of error, and less time.
The basic features of Bumrah’s spell were pace and control. He was brilliantly accurate, thanks to his balance. And he bowled at the perfect speed. When he made the ball reverse, he extracted maximum advantage.
In reverse swing, the faster you are, the more effective you become. You need 140kph minimum to move the ball late. If you are bowling slower, air revolution on the ball starts early, giving batsmen time to pick the swing and adjust accordingly. Also, for reverse swing, you need to bowl full, so that the air revolution comes into effect late. Bumrah bowled at the right pace, well past 140 kph, and full. Fast bowlers from the subcontinent learn the art of reverse swing early, due to the abrasive conditions in our part of the world. Earlier, Indian fast bowlers didn’t have the pace to reverse the ball to optimum effect.
Bumrah is a complete bowler. He has a fantastic bouncer, an excellent yorker, and even with the new ball, moves the ball both ways. This is a difficult skill to master. In conventional swing, you have to control the seam. It’s a very difficult art. In case of reverse swing, the ball will move towards the shiny side and the degree of swing will not vary.
As a fast bowler, he is different, but not imperfect. In fact, from his delivery stride to loading and release, he is 101 percent perfect.
Complete fast bowler
The basic aspect of his action is the run-up. You need the right momentum when hitting the crease. It’s no use running 40 yards but when you are hitting the crease, your momentum is lost. When Bumrah is about to hit the crease, he is as fast as anyone. He walks, walks and walks, and suddenly picks up pace, exactly what’s required. His last three steps before hitting the crease are as fast and as strong as anyone. And those three steps are vital.
The second-most important aspect is the landing. A right-arm bowler lands on his right foot and then transfers his weight to the left leg. So the left leg becomes important as well, the timing of transferring the weight to it.
At the time of releasing the ball, the most important thing is power generation. For a fast bowler, body power is 20 percent. The rest is ground force. At the point of release, what we look at a bowler is how well his foot is planted, from left heel to toe. If your foot is perfectly planted, you are using the optimum ground force. Your front knee follows, and has to be ramrod straight. This allows the ground force to go into your limbs. If your knee collapses, you are wasting energy. Bumrah does all this perfectly.
When he is about to release the ball, his arm and right shoulder are at 90 degrees. His right arm is parallel to his shoulder and his front arm is tucking into his (left) ribs. Generating pace depends on how well you lock your front arm into your ribs. The radius he uses from loading to delivery release is copybook. Don’t look at how he is approaching the crease. The end product is perfect. Very few fast bowlers use their height so well. Very few transfer weight so smoothly.
From run-up to release, Bumrah’s entire approach is completely linear, using his energy in a straight direction. It gives him more power. To me, he has the best action in the business.
(As told to Shamik Chakrabarty)