Sonic Boom-rah, the rarest of rare fast bowling gems

Jasprit Bumrah with the T20 World Cup Trophy (Image: BCCI)

The batters knew that Jasprit Bumrah is not someone to be messed with. The principle for the day was ‘play him out and go after the other bowlers’. That’s exactly what they did. The South Africans were trying to dead-bat him in the T20 World Cup final. They presented the straightest bat possible.

Then, one beat the outside edge to hit off stump. The other one went past the inside edge to hit leg stump. Reeza Hendricks and Marco Jansen must have been confident that what they had done was right. Only, they heard a ‘click’ of the bails being dislodged. They were still holding the shape of the perfect defensive posture when they realised that it was ‘over’.

Bumrah dominated this edition of the T20 World Cup like no one else has, in any edition of any World Cup in either format. This version of cricket is about hitting the ball, no matter when and where it pitches. Against Bumrah, touching the ball with the bat was the challenge, forget hitting it. This has not happened in the recent history of cricket.

We have seen Wasim Akram and Dale Steyn. They were deadly operators who made life miserable for the greatest of batters. Art, craft, courage, skill, guile and everything else — they ticked all the boxes possible. They made us believe that beyond this, nothing is possible. And they were right. It was actually impossible to do more with the ball than they did.

Bumrah has changed that perception. He did things with the ball which no-one else did. It’s not possible to complete a T20 tournament with an economy rate of 4.17. This cannot happen. Yet, this freak of a genius made it look so commonplace. He turned the match when South Africa needed 30 off 30 balls with six wickets in hand on a pitch quite all right for batting.


Akram’s two-wicket burst in one over in 1992 is regarded as the biggest match-turning bowling effort in World Cup finals. Bumrah bettered that with sheer audacity and the command he exerted over the batters. They were forced into submission by his unimaginable levels of skill. Supple use of the wrist and a non-stop, thinking brain made that possible.

People say that his awkward action makes things difficult for batters. This is true, but just half the story. After that action comes supreme intelligence. He thinks things that batters cannot comprehend or prepare for. They don’t know what is coming at them at a decent pace and with subtle variations. Those deliveries which resulted in two wickets in the final were prime examples. Hendricks and Jansen had everything covered, but still heard that death rattle of ball clipping bails.

The extraordinary part of this story is Bumrah does this in all the formats. In last year’s 50-over World Cup he was equally unplayable. And he reproduced that in successive Test series, versus South Africa in South Africa and against England at home on non-responsive pitches. His series-defining spell on a dead surface in Vizag in the second Test will remain a highlight of Tests played in India.

And then, he does it in the T20 format, where reputations and abilities of bowlers count for nothing. On a day, anybody can be ripped apart. Mitchell Starc, Jofra Archer and Kagiso Rabada suffered that ignominy in different stages of the competition. Bumrah was incredibly predictable, for he made batters swing to his wishes. This was inexplicable supremacy.

Contemporary cricket is fortunate to have seen Bumrah. There will be none like him. There will be bowlers with strange actions and stranger habits, but no one will match him when it comes to combining natural attributes with intelligence. He is bowling’s equivalent of ‘sonic boom’, which means the sound of explosion when a particle exceeds the speed of sound.