Nehra and Bumrah: Highly unexpected, but very effective
They may be at two ends of the age spectrum but, bound by an intense desire to chase their respective dreams and an eagerness to answer the captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s call to shoulder responsibility, veteran Ashish Nehra and rookie Jas
They not only kept quick bowlers like Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, S Aravind and many others out of the squad but also the wily Bhuvneshwar Kumar out of the XI by delivering what the skipper and the team management expected of them. Their willingness to bowl either with the new ball or at the death – and effectively at that – has opened up many options for Dhoni.
The 22-year-old Bumrah has impressed everyone with his smart use of the variations that he has at his control. From the seasoned Sri Lankan paceman Lasith Malinga, he learnt the importance of not being predictable and the art of bringing in subtle changes in pace, even when bowling the yorker. He has been unafraid to employ these on the biggest platforms.
Not for nothing did Dhoni call Bumrah the discovery of India’s recent tour Down Under when the Gujarat fast bowler, with an unusual action, made an impression when he was fast tracked to make his debut in one-day international cricket within two days of landing in Australia. He followed that up with solid efforts in the T20 internationals in Australia and against Sri Lanka at home.
Nehra’s willingness to take on the challenge of bowling in the power play overs and returning to bowl at the death sets him apart from most other bowlers. Aware that batsmen will risk going after the bowlers at either end of a T20 innings, he wears the fearlessness of youth when taking up the responsibility.
Yet, it is his resilience that strikes one the most. Having started in India’s ICC Cricket World Cup campaigns in 2003 and 2011, has spent so much time in wilderness – at times due to injury and at others due to selectorial whims – that lesser cricketers would have faded away into oblivion. Not Nehra.
He trained relentlessly, stayed as injury free as possible and paraded his skills at every available opportunity – be it in first-class cricket for Delhi in 2014-15 or for Chennai Super Kings in the last two IPL seasons. In fact, his turning up for Chennai Super Kings could be construed as a turning point in his career as it let Dhoni watch Nehra’s undiminished skills from behind the stumps.
The surfacing of Nehra and Bumrah as India’s lead quick bowlers serves to show that sport, even international sport, has room for those with passion and a gumption for hard work that lets them use their skills to the optimum. Surely, if the pair sustains its efforts in the Asia Cup and in the ICC World Twenty20 in the coming weeks, it will inspire a lot of Indians to follow their dreams.