Wed, 22 May 2019

Jasprit Bumrah "is the best bowler in the world at this stage", declared Sachin Tendulkar, the Mumbai Indians icon, after the paceman had returned 2 for 14 to star in their IPL 2019 final win over Chennai Super Kings on Sunday.

His returns - not a boundary hit off his 24 balls, and 13 dot balls thrown in - were incredible all right, making him a straight pick for the Man of the Match award too. Chatting with Tendulkar for IPLT20.com after the match was Yuvraj Singh, who played a few matches early on in the season for Mumbai but was subsequently benched.

Asked by Tendulkar what made Bumrah so difficult to face, Yuvraj said that apart from an "awkward" action, it was "very tough to understand at what pace he is coming".

"I think he is bowling the best I have seen in his career," he added, and Tendulkar agreed: "Let me go on record and say that he is the best bowler in the world at this stage. And the best is yet to come, hopefully."

Bumrah was the toast of the Mumbai team, and their fans. Not for the first time either. Forget the past, just this year, Bumrah came on at the toughest of moments for Mumbai, and delivered almost without fail. Among bowlers to have sent down at least 60 overs, only Rashid Khan had a better economy rate for the season - 6.28 - than Bumrah's 6.63.

For two fewer wickets - Bumrah ended with 19 and Rashid 17. Expand that list to bowlers who have bowled at least 40 overs, and Bumrah's economy rate stands at No. 4, with Ravindra Jadeja (6.35) and Chahar (6.55) slotting in between Rashid and Bumrah. Bumrah still ended with the most wickets among them.

Let's look at more numbers.

Bumrah bowled 172 balls in the death overs (17 to 20), 52 more than the next on the list: Kagiso Rabada. And how did he do in them? His economy rate in that period was 7.67, by far the best among bowlers to have sent down at least ten overs at the death. Next on the list is Chris Morris, with an economy rate of 8.61. And Bumrah's 13 wickets at the death was also second only to Rabada's tally of 17.

But Bumrah was - is - more than just his numbers. It's the effect he has had on opposition batsmen, coming it at crunch moments and making sure liberties were kept to a minimum. "Phenomenal", Zaheer Khan, the Mumbai director of cricket, called Bumrah - he's been doing it year in and year out, for Mumbai and for India.

"Just trying to be calm, always learning from all the legends of the game that we have over here, trying to execute, trying to keep things simple whenever I'm trying to bowl so that's probably it," Bumrah told Zaheer about his agenda out in the middle.

Those are words one hears often - not much there. But Zaheer did give away a bit of inside information about Bumrah: he is "stubborn", and he takes "a lot of convincing" when new plans are discussed. But, at the same time, chatting about bowling with Bumrah can make for "great conversations".

One such conversation - more than once, actually - was apparently with MS Dhoni, who, Bumrah revealed, had been after the paceman to bowl his outswingers more and more. Three balls Bumrah got to bowl at Dhoni on Sunday night in the final. The first was an awaygoing delivery, angling in and holding its line, leaving Dhoni poking at it.

"He's been behind [after] me for the outswingers since the tournament's beginning," Bumrah said. "I told him I'd bowl it, but he was behind me all the time 'you should bowl it more often'. So after bowling it today he was very happy."

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