Live action from India’s long-awaited South Africa tour has finally begun. After a long time, there is an air of excitement surrounding the series. Finally, the Indian team will be subject to an opposition that will slow down, if not halt, their winning run.
The first Test match against South Africa provided some surprise selections by Virat Kohli and the team management. Although dropping vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane came as the biggest shocker, giving the greenhorn Bumrah a nod, ahead of seasoned veterans like Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, was no less a surprise.
However, here are a few reasons why his inclusion is justified:
Shoaib Akhtar always says, “Fast bowling is about two things – toes and nose.” The classical ‘fast’ bowling of the past era was as much about bowling quick, as it was about other skills. The likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Dennis Lillee and Curtly Ambrose used to intimidate the batsmen, especially the tail-enders, with raw pace.
From their past experience, the Indian team has seen how frustrating the lower-order batsmen can be. South Africa have players like Vernon Philander and Keshav Maharaj who are no mugs with the bat. They have the potential to not only tire the bowlers out, but also act as catalysts to shift the momentum. Bumrah’s toe-crushing yorkers, coupled with nippy bouncers, can help India run through the South African team’s lower order.
Within a short span of time, we have seen that Bumrah is right on the money from the start. In a vocation where an inch here and there is the difference between an excellent yorker and a rank full- toss, he has tremendous control over his deliveries.
In South Africa, where he will mostly be used as a first-change bowler, control will be of the utmost importance. In the recent past, there have been instances when Ishant and Umesh have been a bit wayward. It has given the opposition batsmen a window of respite after the initial pressure.
Also, there will be phases in the matches when wickets will not come easily. Then, the need arises to bottle one end up and create constant pressure by giving nothing away. At such times, the control of Bumrah will be the difference between a 300- and 450-run target.
Bumrah’s unusual action certainly brings a sense of surprise with it. No matter how much footage you see of a bowler, it is nothing compared to a first-hand experience. The Gujarat pacer has a deceptive action in ways more than one. The batsmen are generally hurried because the balls come much quicker than they anticipate.
He can also bring the slower one and the yorker back in vogue in the Test arena. We hardly ever see any of these in Test matches these days – but you never know how effective they may be in the changing scenario of Test matches.
The natural length of Bumrah’s deliveries is a little short of the good length, which is ideal in South Africa. His bowling action is such that his arm comes from way over his head. On South African pitches, he has the potential to surprise the batsmen with his extra bounce.
Through years of practice, he has perfected the short-pitched delivery coming into the right-hander. The balls zip off the surface and hurry the batsmen. His nippy bouncer also catches the batsmen napping quite often.
A quick recap and analysis of all that happened on day one of the first India-South Africa Test match: