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Boom Boom Bumrah Breaks Down

Boom Boom Bumrah Breaks Down
Boom Boom Bumrah Breaks Down

The news is horrible to the Indian cricket fans with a capital H. World’s number one ranked fast bowler and India’s match winner on foreign soil Jasprit Bumrah has a stress fracture.

The injury is not new. History of cricket is replete with fast bowlers breaking down with stress fracture of the lower back. Dennis Keith Lillee, the maestro of this art had this debilitating injury in early seventies. Lillee conquered the menace with gumption and became a legend afterwards. Ian Bishop of West Indies and Shane Bond of New Zealand were dogged by the same problem and they never achieved what they could have.  

Take a lowdown on the stress fracture. Our spine is a structure. The movement of this structure is known as its biomechanics. The action during fast bowling is unbalanced. Our spine moves three ways during bowling. First it extends as you jump, then rotates as you are about to bowl. As the bowler finishes action it flexes. Pressure on the vertebrae of the spine over and over again causes this overuse injury.

The stress fracture occurs between the two facet joints and on a certain part of vertebrae. In medical terms it’s called spondylolysis. L4 and L5 vertebrae are most vulnerable area to stress fracture.

In modern era a biomechanics expert analyses the video footage of a fast bowler using graphics, force plate and so on. He would measure the degree of lateral flexion the spine undergoes during bowling. He would measure the counter rotation forces etc. In tandem with the bowling coach he would zoom on the type of action – open, mixed or side on.

Fast bowling coaches say the pace of a ball depends 60% on good run up and the speed of it. A bowler runs in with a ball to create momentum which is velocity multiplied by mass. The momentum ensures that the ball can be hurled at the target (batsman) at great speed.  Look at Bumrah. His run up is a mere jog. It denies momentum.

Unlike a traditional action his non bowling arm does not extend fully. Now to bowl at 148 clicks Bumrah has to compensate on all this biomechanics deficiencies by heavily relying on his shoulder and core muscle. Therefore, he is susceptible to back injury. Bowlers with slinging actions and levelled unconventional like Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka had experienced back problem in the past.

In spite of tracking all the shortcomings in Bumrah’s action, India’s bowling coach Bharat Arun never tweaked with his action. Bumrah had this pain back in 2013. But a remodeled action suggested by Arun seemed to take the venom out of Bumrah’s bowling. With his acumen Arun told Bumrah to simply stick to his original action.

Too much analysis by some of the bowling coach’s literally causes paralysis to the bowler. In a desperate bid to plug too many loopholes in the action, the bowler loses his penetration and disappears from the scene. Bharat Arun ‘s prescription to Bumrah’s problem read – strengthen the deep abdominal muscles and adopt power training with Olympic lifts.  Under fitness coach Sanker Basu, lifts like clean and jerk, snatch, dead lifts were drilled into Bumrah’s system, ensuring that the spine can withstand the biomechanical deficiencies. That clinched the issue.

However, having prepared the body in that manner can never ensure that you will not break down again. In the 2019 world cup Bumrah bowled 35 overs in the death. That’s a story of barrage of yorkers which requires effort. Along with the bouncer, yorker is known as the effort ball where a fast bowler puts in extra effort.  A sustained pace of 145 clicks coupled with the high frequency of matches and then add those effort balls.  The end result? A back injury beacons. That’s why the Indian think tank handled Bumrah with care – resting him often. 

The road to recovery is never easy. The MRI scan gives an idea on the nature of fracture. A six weeks complete rest from action is followed by range of motion exercises for the hip and lower back. Then deep abdominal muscle strengthening starts.

The physio will assess the back after about 8 weeks to see the improvement before the bowler can start jogging and moderate intensity weight training. After 10 weeks running at higher intensity and practicing the run up can take place. Lifting starts slowly. Coming back to bowling can happen after 12 weeks.  Bumrah being a mind of steel will come back with a vengeance. Rest assured.

© Cricket World 2019