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India vs Australia: Fear of reinjuring, length, wary batsmen may be hurting Jasprit Bumrah

Jasprit Bumrah’s poor form in ODIs from early this year has continued to chase him in Australia despite his impressive showing for the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League T20 over the last couple of months.

The right-arm pace bowler has not just failed to pick enough wickets in the ODIs, he has also leaked more runs in the two ODIs in Sydney than he had in his first few one-dayers this year. He has returned figures of one for 73 and one for 79 in the first two one-dayers against Australia in Sydney.

Bumrah, who notched up impressive numbers between 2016 and 2019 with wickets, average and strike rate, suffered a lower back injury in 2019 that forced him to miss most of the second half of last year.

Since returning this January, he has played eight matches, bagged just three wickets — every wicket of his taking 152 deliveries and costing 146 runs.

This is way higher than previous years when his strike rate (24.1 in 2016; 30.6 in 2017; 27.5 in 2018; and 31.8 in 2019) and average (14.64 in 2016; 26.25 in 2017; 16.63 in 2018; and 24.6 in 2019) were quite impressive.

“He has come back from an injury. Sometimes it happens that when you are coming back from injury, you have fear and you are careful. I don’t know if that is the case with him, but with bowlers returning from injury that can happen. It happened with me. It took me a year to get back to top form. Once a bowler gets over that injury fear, he gets back to top form,” Manoj Prabhakar, a former India pace bowler, told IANS on Monday.

Prabhakar said that the onus lies on the India team bowling coach to guide bowlers like Bumrah through this phase.

“Adjusting to the length is the toughest part in Australia. When I toured there, I realised that some of my deliveries that would hit the stumps in India would go over the stumps in Australia. So, I had to adjust the length a bit. I quickly adjusted to it,” said Prabhakar.

India skipper Virat Kohli on Sunday said that the bowlers have not hit the right areas for long enough.

Bumrah has also failed to pick wickets early on. Importantly, the short deliveries that we saw him use with so much effectiveness in the IPL have been missing in the ODIs.

His failure could also be because the Australian batsmen are not taking undue risks against him and are happy seeing him off initially unlike in T20 cricket’s four-over spells for MI when batsmen have to go after his bowling but end up giving wickets.

Former India all-rounder Madan Lal had earlier told IANS that bowling in T20 cricket is a bit different from bowling in the ODIs as the batsmen can see the bowler off. “In 50 overs, you have time. Batsman can adjust. You can endure a spell of four-five overs without scoring much. In T20, the batsman has to try to hit every ball.”

In both the games, Bumrah’s opening spells were negotiated quite easily. Neither the Aussies went after him nor did they concede any wickets. They played him out — Bumrah’s opening spells were 4-0-23-0 in first match and 2-0-9-0 in second match.

The surfaces no doubt have lacked support for him. Team vice-captain KL Rahul on Sunday said that the surfaces at Sydney and New Zealand (in February) were very batting-friendly.

“You also have to understand that in New Zealand and Australia, the wickets are so good to bat on. You will see top bowlers not getting wickets. So that is acceptable,” said Rahul also adding that the bowlers will have to learn to bowl on these surfaces.

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