'He even wanted to learn from me': UAE cricketer on why Bumrah is such a great player

UAE bowler Zahoor Khan and coach Gopal Jasapara offer rare insight into how Bumrah made a successful comeback from a serious back injury


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Pakistan-born UAE pace bowler Zahoor Khan with Jasprint Bumrah during a Mumbai Indians net session. — Supplied photo
Pakistan-born UAE pace bowler Zahoor Khan with Jasprint Bumrah during a Mumbai Indians net session. — Supplied photo

Published: Tue 11 Jun 2024, 9:29 AM

After India stopped Pakistan from chasing down a modest total of 119 on a tricky wicket in New York in the nail-biting T20 World Cup match on Sunday, the cricket world can’t seem to stop raving about Jasprit Bumrah’s bowling mastery.

With that short run-up and the unconventional action, the Indian pace spearhead kept Pakistan batsmen on a tight leash, delivering a performance (4-0-14-3) that would evoke admiration for years to come.

Ironically, it was because of the same unorthodox bowling action that Bumrah was written off by many big names, including former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar, after the Indian star suffered a serious back injury.

“I have seen Ian Bishop, Shane Bond, fast bowlers with front-on action, suffer serious back injuries. They never managed to recover from that. Now unfortunately we have seen Bumrah going through the same problem. The front-on action puts a lot of stress on the back and that’s why fast bowlers with that action struggle so much after they suffer a back injury,” Akhtar told India’s Sports Talk after Bumrah’s injury.

But Bumrah doesn’t seem to be struggling at all since his return last August from the year-long injury layoff.

Rather, it’s the batsmen, including the Pakistani batters on Sunday, who have struggled to cope with his scorching brilliance.

The 30-year-old is bowling his yorkers, and length balls with the same effectiveness, and even more remarkably, he is doing all that without changing his bowling action.

The Ahmedabad cricketer has taken 68 wickets in just 27 matches (average 16.22) across the three formats in international cricket since he made his comeback during a bilateral series against Ireland last August.

He was also the lone bright spark in the hugely disappointing 2024 IPL season for Mumbai Indians, taking 20 wickets in 13 matches as he finished third on the highest wicket-takers list.

So how has the Indian pace spearhead proved the sceptics wrong to continue his journey as the world’s most feared fast bowler?

Workload management

Two prominent people from the UAE cricket fraternity, veteran coach Gopal Jasapara and international pace bowler Zahoor Khan shared their experience of watching the master craftsman in action.

“I took my academy team (G Force Cricket Academy, Dubai) to Ahmedabad for a few matches with local teams. I still remember the day, it was December 19, 2022. When we entered the Narendra Modi Stadium, we saw Bumrah running on the ground with a fitness trainer helping him,” Jasapara told the Khaleej Times.

Jasapara with his academy team
Jasapara with his academy team

“He was working on his fitness after the injury. When we saw him that day, we thought he was ready and fit, the BCCI was trying to get him back. But he was not ready. In fact, he needed a back surgery few months later (April 2023) and he returned only in August (2023). He took his time to recover completely before returning to competitive cricket. He was never in a hurry. And once he returned, the BCCI has really managed his workload very well.”

Jasapara, who has produced many international players for the UAE national team, says Bumrah has now adopted a very careful approach to cricket.

“I remember speaking to the fitness trainer that day in Ahmedabad. He said Bumrah is a very sensible young man who knows how to manage his body,” the Dubai-based coach said.

“Also, he is not bowling with the new ball. He didn’t take the new ball yesterday (Sunday) as well. Even in the IPL, he was not opening the bowling. He comes and bowls in patches, giving good rest to his body.

“So he is managing his workload even within a game. That’s why he looks so fresh whenever he comes on to bowl. He knows how important he is for this Indian team.”

Most dangerous bowler

Zahoor Khan trained with Bumrah during his time as a net bowler for the Mumbai Indians when the UAE hosted the first post-Covid IPL in 2020.

The UAE pace bowler, who has taken 165 wickets in one-day internationals and T20 internationals, is not surprised by Bumrah’s successful comeback from a serious back injury.

“Yes, he is bowling so well and he is bowling with the same action. When a fast bowler comes back from an injury like that, there is always a big fear in his mind. The back injury for a fast bowler is the most dangerous in cricket. But this guy has worked really hard on his fitness and I am so happy for him,” said Zahoor who played first-class cricket in Pakistan alongside Test stalwarts Misbah ul Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam before making his international debut for the UAE national team in 2017.

“When he came back to bowl (against Pakistan on Sunday), I knew he wouldn’t concede more than three runs per over. Hitting him, even hitting his full toss is very difficult because of the unique action that he has. He is a very different bowler, there is no one like him in world cricket.

“Also, he is the most dangerous bowler in the world when the ball reverses. The ball was reversing yesterday (on Sunday) as well and he was just unplayable.”

But what impressed Zahoor most about Bumrah was not his brilliance with a cricket ball.

“He is a wonderful human being, he is so humble. There is so much to learn from him,” Zahoor said before opening up about his most memorable moment with the Indian superstar.

“I had bowled a maiden over to Lendl Simmons in the T10 League. Simmons could not play my slower balls because I was bowling them with the same action. Bumrah has seen that video and he wanted to learn that from me,” said Zahoor who will play for the Galle Marvels in the Lankan Premier League next month.

“So I showed him how to bowl the slower ball with the same action and he taught me how to bowl the yorker with the new ball.

“He is a big international star, but he is always trying to learn something new even from a player like me who plays for an associate team. That is why he is such a great player.”


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