The boy called Boom | Sunday Observer

The boy called Boom

Jasprit Bumrah
Jasprit Bumrah

In his home town, Ahmedabad, Jasprit Bumrah already has his own urban legend. Like all stories out of 21st-century Indian metros, it involves a traffic jam. An “IPL organiser” takes a lane to avoid the famously gridlocked Vijay Char Rasta, an intersection not far from the Gujarat University campus. The diversion takes him past one of the college’s cricket grounds, where the sight of a boy bowling thunderbolts catches his eye.

He stops his car (and it is assumed the boy’s run-up), hands over a visiting card, and in two days Jasprit Jasbirsingh Bumrah is in Mumbai, with Mumbai Indians and in the IPL. The city Bumrah belongs to is not made for fast bowlers, express or otherwise. Many months of the year, it can be argued, Ahmedabad is not made for cricket itself.

A hub of business and industry, set upon an arid, beige, unyielding landscape, more sand in sight than mud, it is where batsmen go to plunder, bowlers go to die, and where cricket people discuss whether the summer will score a half-century - i.e. hit 50°C - like it did in 2016. So far the most famous cricketers out of Ahmedabad, out of Gujarat - the cricket team, not the state, which also includes the Baroda and Saurashtra teams - had been Patels. Offspinner Jasu, of Kanpur 1959 fame; decades later the pocket-sized, chirpy wicketkeeper-batsman Parthiv.

Today, atop that heap sits a rattlingly fast bowler who materialised, in the romantic imagination at least, out of Ahmedabad’s scorching, stinging air, hurling down a heavy ball that carries, it seems, traces of the whistling roasters from the Rann. Within three years of his international debut, Bumrah has elevated himself to India’s all-wicket, all-conditions, all-format fast bowler, No. 1 in the ICC ODI rankings.

Along with his quixotic, biomechanics-busting action, he has established for Indian fast bowling never-seen-before markers. On the eve of the biggest event in his career, the 2019 World Cup, Bumrah is the complete package of speed, variety, fitness and smarts, a fast-bowling superhero. His own choice from that species is unsurprisingly the Flash, but for the Indian bowling pack their superhero is the boy called Boom. The last time he played ODIs in England, in the 2017 Champions Trophy, he was in his first year with India. That event ended badly, India conceding 338 in the final, and the title to Pakistan. Everyone remembers Bumrah’s three no-balls - or at least the one that got the wicket of centurion Fakhar Zaman in the fourth over. In the 407.4 overs Bumrah has sent down in all white-ball cricket since then, he has bowled only six no-balls.

Bumrah returns to ODI cricket in England two years later as Powerplay containment artist and death-overs destroyer. He has become the quiet leader of India’s bowling brotherhood, sending down more overs across formats than any Indian, with 89 wickets from 591.2 overs at an average of 21.85 and an economy rate of 3.28, coming through stronger, quicker and full tilt - this off a reconstructed ligament in his left knee, held down by titanium screws.

Like his sporting hero Zlatan Ibrahimovic said of himself, Bumrah became the lightning that struck. India’s seam and swing bowlers have usually been erratically isolated weather systems. The perfect storm had been a long time coming.