Jasprit Bumrah’s body is paying the price for his genius

Jasprit Bumrah

Jasprit Bumrah is, without question, a modern-day great. A match-winning performance against England in the second Test in Visakhapatnam where Bumrah picked up nine wickets was further proof of the Ahmedabad-born bowler’s generational ability.

Bumrah bowls India back into the series

It was imperative that India responded after going 1-0 down in the five-match series which is why Rohit Sharma tossed the ball to Bumrah and asked him to bowl the visitors out on a flat pitch.

Four days later, Bumrah walked off the ground having recorded match figures of 9/91 and in doing so, became the number one Test bowler in the world.

India now odds-on to beat England

Such a dominant performance by Bumrah means that India are now at just 2/9 to beat England at home while Ben Stokes’ men have shot up to 11/2 to pull off a famous Test series win.

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While there is a long way to go yet in this series, the reality is that if Bumrah repeats his Visakhapatnam performance, India should win. History does, after all, tell us that when Bumrah plays, India win – the only problem is that Bumrah doesn’t play as often as we might think.

Bumrah’s startling record

Bumrah has been so prolific since his Test debut in 2018 against South Africa in Cape Town that he now boasts an average of 20.19 in the longest format. The reality is that despite going into his seventh year of international Test cricket, the opposition is yet to find a way to nullify Bumrah’s distinctive threat.

Bumrah’s unorthodox style of a short stuttering run-up and a powerful late release means that the batsmen are often rushed and cramped for space when the ball arrives – most of the time at speeds over 90 mph. It is a thoroughly unique bowling action that is as devastating for the batsmen to negotiate as it is on Bumrah’s body.

Indeed, Bumrah’s average is not the only number that jumps out at you while perusing his record given that the Indian quick has played just 34 Tests since his first game at Newlands in 2018.

To put this into better context, India have contested 58 Tests since Bumrah’s debut which means that he has missed out on 24 red-ball matches in six years. It is a striking stat and indicates that Bumrah has been unavailable for selection just over 40 per cent of the time.

By comparison, James Anderson had played 71 Tests by the same age and has subsequently racked up 113 more Test appearances since turning 30. While Anderson’s freakish longevity can make for unfair comparisons, there is still something to be said for the fact that he had played more than double the number of Tests as Bumrah at the same point in their respective careers.

Bumrah’s specific problem

It is worth pointing out that bowlers suffer more injuries in the early part of their career as opposed to the latter stages. For example, fast bowlers under the age of 24 are three times more susceptible to suffering a side strain than those over the age of 30. Basically, the body needs time to build up the muscle resistance that is required to overcome the demands of Test cricket.

With this in mind, the hopeful takeaway here is that Bumrah’s injury record could improve as he begins the second half of his career. Still, it might not be as straightforward as that given that the Indian quick is suffering from recurring back injuries.

It is an injury that is a direct result of the extraordinary force Bumrah puts onto his left leg as he uses it as the catapult to get the ball down to the batsmen at over 90 mph from what isn’t far off a standing start. With such a jarring jolt at the crease used to generate lightning pace, Bumrah’s back then absorbs the tremors and so far, has been known to break down consequently.

Of course, the catch is that without this physically demanding action, Bumrah wouldn’t be one of the greatest exponents of fast bowling that the world has ever seen.

To that end, there is very little Bumrah can do but carry on putting his back through this ordeal as he continues to skittle the opposition cheaply. The sacrifice is that it may mean India’s most effective fast bowler sees his career curtailed but when the day does come to retire, Bumrah will, in all likelihood, leave a legacy that may never be matched again.