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Jasprit Bumrah - Back in letter then, back in spirit now

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Bumrah may have returned to international cricket after a back stress fracture on January 7 this year, but he truly bowled at his best only in the final T20I against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui.

After Jasprit Bumrah had a rare bad day and went for 45, courtesy of a Kane Williamson masterclass in Hamilton, it has egged him on to bounce back to his best. The pacer has conceded only 32 runs in his following 8 overs.

The pacy in-angler that trapped Martin Guptill in front of the sticks, the laser-guided yorker that uprooted Daryl Mitchell's woodwork and another toe-crusher that sent Tim Southee back, truly reiterated his variety and accuracy.

The darkest hour is just before the dawn, it is often said. But, the saying goes both ways. Just when Bumrah was at the top of his powers and registered his career best Test figures of 6/27, including a hat-trick, against West Indies at Kingston, little did he know that one of the toughest phases of his career was upon him.

Shortly after the game, Bumrah was diagnosed with a stress fracture in the back and was pushed out of competitive cricket for over four months. After consultation, the slinger decided not to go under the knife and opted exercises, physiotherapy and other natural methods to regain full fitness.

The first time he came back to represent India after his injury was in the second T20I against Sri Lanka on January 7 this year. The pacer was supposed to be part of a domestic red-ball match for Gujarat but later decided against it on the advice of BCCI President Sourav Ganguly.

Although he is a guy you would least expect to be rusty, there were signs of him not being in the groove in his return match. His figures of one 32/0 were not too bad but a couple of balls down the leg side and difficulty in controlling the length showed that he was certainly not at his best.

Next up was the marquee ODI series against Australia. The format being a bit longer and the quality of the opposition being substantially better, Bumrah was far from his best in the series opener and conceded 50 runs without taking any wicket or creating an impact.

Although he was not among the wickets in the following two ODIs, he at least ensured that he did not give away easy runs, conceding 32 and 38 runs respectively in the second and the third ODI. He may not have been the most effective with the new ball but his mojo at the death was back. You could see sparks of Bumrah of the old.

The need was to put in some more hard yards. This was achieved on the tour of New Zealand which, for him, can be divided into two halves. Bumrah had good returns in the first two matches with returns of 31/0 and 21/0. But, in the absence of wickets, this was not his A game.

In the first match, his last two overs went for only 16 runs. The 'only' is used before 16 because even the 203 runs that New Zealand scored seemed a bit below par, given the miniature boundaries and a batting beauty at the Eden Park. In the next match, at the same venue, he conceded only 21 off his four overs, restricting New Zealand to 130-odd.

The following match was one of the worst showings in Bumrah's T20 career. It is true that the fielders weren't kind to him, but it was only the fourth time in T20Is that Bumrah conceded in excess of 40. This was brought about largely due to the expertise of Kane Williamson who used the crease brilliantly and made room and walked inside the line to outfox the bowler in a rare occurrence.

But, one always knew that he would bounce back strongly as he always has in his short but sparkling career. His figures in the next two games read 4-0-20-0 and 4-1-13-3. When you take into account the flat batting surfaces on offer in New Zealand and the short boundaries, the admiration for these figures increases manifold.

Bumrah has a long and significant year ahead of him - the Test series against New Zealand, followed by the the IPL, the T20 World Cup and the tour of Australia to cap off the year. And, India will need his services at every turn. All the team would hope is to witness the maestro in all his glory, in letter and in spirit.

©Cricket World 2020