Jasprit Bumrah, who will now be the only pace bowler remaining from the India squad of 2018-19 that won the Test series in Australia, will have his hands full going into the last two Tests of the series being the senior-most bowler despite having played just 16 Tests so far.
Bumrah’s attempt to extract angles from around the wicket, as he did in the Melbourne Test and having to bowl more overs in case other junior bowlers don’t do well, could push his body that endured a lower-back injury only last year.
Bumrah’s returns in the series have been good so far. He has picked eight wickets in two Tests, including a four-wicket haul in the first innings of the Melbourne Test that helped India dismiss the Aussies for just 191.
“He is showing signs of maturity. He is a thinking bowler and despite limitations the way he has done well in all formats, showing potency, is remarkable. I thought he would get injured but his core is very strong,” said former India speedster Atul Wassan, who has also served as a state-level selector.
A primary reason why Bumrah has managed to keep up is that his short run-up ensures he conserves energy. His success is due to the fact that he has been accurate. He also shared tips on accuracy with debutant Mohammed Siraj while guiding him throughout his debut.
But Umesh Yadav’s exit from the ongoing Test series on Thursday due to ankle injury after Mohammed Shami, who got injured in the first Test, and Ishant Sharma, who didn’t travel to Australia, has left India with reserve options having a combined experience of just two Tests.
Both Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur have played a Test each while Navdeep Saini, T Natarajan, and Kartik Tyagi have no Tests under their belt.
The last two Tests in Sydney and Brisbane may then test 27-year-old Bumrah’s mind, maturity, as well as his body.
Bumrah had suffered the lower back injury ahead of the three-Test home series against South Africa last year. He missed those Tests as well as the subsequent two-Test series against Bangladesh in October-November and returned only in February for the Test matches in New Zealand.
The first signs of the expected stress became evident in the last Test itself during Australia’s second innings after Yadav limped off the field early.
Bumrah’s workload increased in that innings as he had to bowl 27 overs, including some from around the wicket to left-handers, and often overdid the short ball. This was the highest number of overs he has bowled in an innings since the Nottingham Test in 2018 when he sent down 29.
The big worries came early on the fourth day when Bumrah left the field for a while, more than the required time for a toilet break, leading to speculation that he too was not feeling 100 percent fit. He, however, returned to bowl and seemed fine.
Wassan says that coming round the wicket can put stress on any bowler. Though Bumrah uses them only against left-handers, a type of batsmen Aussies has in large numbers.
“It affects every bowler a bit because you have to move the ball further away (from the left-handers). He has to twist and then avoid that dangerous area in follow-through, so it calls for effort from round the stumps. You have to tweak your follow-through. Your body weight takes you to left, but you can’t go left as you would get warned; you have to go straight. His action is such that he has to hyper-rotate his shoulder to make the ball seems to be coming in and pitching and leaving especially lefties,” Wassan explains.
In the next two Tests, a lot will depend on how much and how well spinners Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin, as well as the other seam bowlers, bowl to take the load off Bumrah.