Whenever a product disruptively changes the Indian psyche, it takes a bit of time to fully penetrate Indian markets. The path that the likes of cable TV, internet and mobile phones, amongst others, took to get to mainstream involves a period of time that can be loosely categorised in three steps. There were the ones who took to it early because they recognised the ways it can impact their life, or simply because they could afford it. Then came the ones who were inquisitive about the new products that were being hyped up so much, and took the dip. And then the ones of trepidation, who had preferred to assess and see if it is really worth it.
In Indian cricket, as a fast bowler, the kind who can bowl yorkers at will, as someone who has can be called just that - fast - without the rider of 'medium' attached to it, and as someone who is often listed amongst the best in the world, Jasprit Bumrah is a commodity that cut through many of these cross-sections in surprisingly quick time and become mainstream. So mainstream, that merely the thought of life without him could cause panic attacks.
In Edgbaston, the thousands of Indian fans that had turned up suffered mild versions of that at one point in Bangladesh's chase when Bumrah lay flat on his back without getting up. He had tried in vain to stop a boundary at fine leg and had fallen over. Eyes turned to the giant screen that was showing a slow-motion replay of the fall. His team-mates inside the ring, five of them, had their eyes transfixed on him. Patrick Farhat, the physio, was out in a matter of seconds and making a sprint towards the fallen man, like he'd been hit by a bus. Eyes remained transfixed, both the team's and the fans', as Farhat leaned over and finally got Bumrah up on his feet. You would not need bubbles popping up with words to know what they were thinking. "Is he limping? No, doesn't seem like it. Let's watch a few more steps. Yep, definitely not." But these wouldn't suffice to confirm if he's really fine. Remember how Shikhar Dhawan hit a century with what was later revealed to be a broken thumb?
For the two overs that he was off, Bumrah had left twiddling thumbs across the globe. The tension was further enhanced by Mohammed Shami conceding 17 runs in an over that kickstarted Bangladesh's second wind in the chase. It continued on for five more overs before Bumrah was brought back into the attack. The plan was deliberate to take the game long and leave Bumrah to carry the heavy load in the death overs. There's, afterall, good reason that he's India's premium bowler. And right on cue, he struck with the first ball to bowl Sabbir Rahman and took the pressure off the rest of the attack.
Bumrah wears that load lightly. "You just try to help each other, take everyone together, try and communicate, make things calm. Don't put extra pressure on the bowler because he's trying hard," was how he'd explain it later, calmly and understating his own value. The humility is another of the big selling points in him being a crowd favorite.
It's a face that'd be hard to keep going on the field when the pressure is high. The mask was broken briefly when Bumrah kicked one of the markers at the 30 yard circle in disgust. Rubel Hossain had smashed him down the ground for a four, on one knee, that had helped take eight of the over - the 46th of the innings. Bangladesh had only two wickets left but were inching closer with the sprightly Mohammad Saifuddin leading the way. The target never seemed gettable, really, with the knowledge that a run-rate of 10 would be required against Bumrah.
But Rubel had given Bangladesh a new lease of hope, by showing that Bumrah was not un-hittable. And Bumrah hated this mask coming off. "It's sometimes I'm very hard on myself. So I was frustrated whichever ball I wanted to bowl, I was not able to execute."
Bangladesh were now getting more confident with Saifuddin too drilling Bumrah down the ground for a boundary in his next over. The pitch was aiding cutters, Hardik Pandya had exploited it well earlier. Bumrah explained that this was India's plan all along, to get the ball softer and make it difficult for hitting by making it stick on the pitch. But this ploy was now being seen through by Bangladesh.
While it was a well-thought plan, this wasn't what had made Bumrah the big-sell all along. It was all about one thing - the yorker - which he's brought back into fashion. This is how he'd got it: "I do it again and again and again in the nets. So the more you do it, you get decent at it. You can't master it. You're still trying to get better at it, yeah. It's all about repetition." And this is what he'd have to go back to, to deliver the final blows. First Rubel, the man who'd caused him embarrassment, was castled by a searing one on the base of middle stump. Bangladesh's final fight had been killed, and it left Bumrah screaming in delight at getting it right once again. On that roll, Mustafizur Rahman stood little chance to keep out the one on his toes. A first-ball duck, a win for India and, with that, their semifinals berth confirmed were the results that followed.
And Bumrah stood there with his arms raised, partly in relief and partly soaking in the applause. Still very much, mainstream.
7/3/2019 9:13 PM