New Delhi: The Indian Premier League has in its five full seasons had the ability to put the spotlight on several unheralded domestic cricketers - think Swapnil Asnodkar, Kamran Khan, Kedar Jadhav, Prasanth Parameswaran, Paul Valthaty and Ajit Chandila, to name a few - and Thursday in Bangalore saw another unknown young player make headlines. The man in question was Jasprit Bumrah, a 19-year-old medium-pacer from Gujarat who was handed his IPL debut for Mumbai Indians against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
As soon as Bumrah's name was revealed on the team sheet in Mumbai captain Ricky Ponting's hand, the unanimous response appeared to be 'Bumrah who?'. While journalists scrambled to locate this new name in the squad pages of various cricket websites, others took to Twitter to express their surprise. Who was this unknown bowler who had pipped the likes of Dhawal Kulkarni, Abu Nechim and Pawan Suyal to Mumbai's playing XI in their IPL 6 opener.
When Bumrah was given the ball for the fifth over of RCB's innings, the intrigue grew. It was palpable that the 19-year-old was a bit overawed by the occasion and his sudden elevation. Bowling with a stop-start action form hardly five paces, Bumrah sprayed three of his first four deliveries wide of off stump and Virat Kohli slapped them for fours. After a brief stoppage in play due to issues with his landing foot, Bumrah swung a full delivery sharply into Kohli who played over it and was adjudged lbw for 24. Bumrah let out his emotions unabashedly.
First ball of his second over, Bumrah got another wicket as Mayank Agarwal drove straight to Sachin Tendulkar at cover. Bumrah was one of the first to reach Tendulkar, but he had to curb his enthusiasm as he came close to the legendary Indian batsman. It made for a touching moment.
After taking a bit of tap from Chris Gayle, Bumrah claimed a third wicket when Karun Nair was rapped on the pads by a delivery that pitched full and wide outside the off stump and cut back in sharply. In fact, it was a similar delivery that got Kohli too and this mode of dismissal seems to be Bumrah's best wicket-taking option. After conceding three fours in his first four deliveries and then struggling with his landing crease, Bumrah finished with figures of 3 for 32.
During the mid-innings break, a far more relaxed Bumrah spoke a few words on his quixotic IPL debut - his first match in front of such a large audience and one which will ensure him headline space. "It felt nice. I was just trying to do the basics and it went good. Some swing was there but it was slippery so I tried to bowl to the stumps," he said. "It was my first match, so I was a bit nervous, but this happens."
Asked about how the moment he received his maiden IPL cap from Tendulkar, Bumrah said: "It felt really nice. I always dreamt that he would give me my cap."
It capped a remarkable evening for the rookie bowler from Gujarat picked from obscurity - he had played just nine Twent20 matches in his fledgling career - and thrown into the limelight. He has yet to play a first-class match and only made his T20 debut for Gujarat in the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, India's domestic Twenty20 competition. In nine matches, Bumrah took 10 wickets at an average of 22.40 and strike-rate of 20.4 as Gujarat surged to the title. In fact, he was Man of the Match in the final against Punjab with excellent figures of 3-1-14-3.
Former India coach John Wright, now in charge of Mumbai Indians, happened to be at the Indore on March 31 to watch the final while scouting for upcoming talent. Impressed by Bumrah's bowling, Wright took word of the youngster back to the Mumbai franchise. In a few days, Bumrah found himself sharing the dressing room with Tendulkar, Ponting and Harbhajan Singh. Come April 4, he was playing for the franchise in front of a packed stadium in Bangalore. Seldom have their been quicker rises to the lucrative stage of the IPL.
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