The threat of Jasprit Bumrah

When Jasprit Bumrah is at his best, you cannot play him. When he’s really bad, you still can’t.

The threat of Jasprit Bumrah

Stats by Aashish Rai & Varun Alvakonda

If anything, Lasith Malinga was underrated. He was a nuclear weapon who no one could hit, even when he delivered poor balls. The man was huge, especially at the death. And if we look at his record on true economy throughout the innings in the IPL, there are five overs where he is better than Jasprit Bumrah. 

This means that 75% of the time, Malinga was not as good at stopping runs as Bumrah. Malinga was better with the new ball, and at the end of the powerplay. And a couple of other overs scattered through. But even at the death, where Malinga was king, Bumrah was more economical. He beats him in all of the last three overs. 

Malinga was a genius with a physical gift. The combination of these two things meant that facing Malinga was not like any other experience in cricket before. But the truth is that Bumrah is the same. It just isn’t as noticeable. The Indian phenom has incredible advantages over other bowlers. 

The first is his ability to shorten the wicket. Because of his weird action, he delivers the ball closer to batters than most players. He is playing on a shorter wicket. In some cases, around half a metre closer at release point than other main bowlers. That is a huge advantage. 

His run up is also an advantage. Fast bowling is too quick for our reflexes as humans, so the top players gather as much information as possible as the bowler is running in. Bumrah cuts that down by simply not having a long run up. Wasim Akram was another bowler who did this and caused chaos. 

Then there is accuracy. There are bowlers like Vernon Philander or Mohammad Asif who are more likely to hit the right spot than Bumrah. But he isn’t accurate on one or two lengths; every single ball different variation he bowls lands on the right spot. He doesn’t have a length; he has loads. 

You can see he pulls different levers, his back of a length is for dot balls. His length is for wickets. That is like most bowlers, he’s just a bit more extreme. But my two favourite sections here are the slot balls and full tosses. Even when he makes a mistake and finds the place where players love to smash you, he still averages 30 and goes at less than 7.5 runs per over. 

In cricket there are still a lot of people that think a low full toss is good. Sadly it is hard to work that out. But we know this, in general, full tosses are very bad. Not when he bowled them in the IPL. While that economy is not normal - even for him - his frugalness is.

Malinga was another bowler who had a great full toss. Bumrah averages less than him, while going at a slightly higher economy rate.

Their best ball is better than everyone else's best, that is a given. But even their full tosses are better than when others bowl it.

That is because they have built up the pressure through their skill and physical gifts, but it’s also because they are so hard to hit no matter what they do. When Jasprit Bumrah is at his best, you cannot play him. When he’s really bad, you still can’t. 

This is Bumrah in IPL 2024. His main lengths are between seven and nine metres. People know where it is going to go, yet that doesn’t seem to matter much at all. He is still going to get away with it. You remember the yorkers, but this length of his is in between. 

But that back of a length ball on a normal bowler can still be scored from, like say, with a pull shot. Except, no one stays in playing that shot against him. They averaged ten when trying to pull. It is basically a forbidden option. There are no great options here at all. 

Many players just don’t know how to attack him. It can be worse for players who have many shots, because they go from many options to none. Glenn Maxwell, Rishabh Pant, Jos Buttler and Andre Russell suddenly have to play another game against him. 

Maxwell is the fun one here, because he does actually score quick against Bumrah. It's just that he’s out so soon that it barely matters. 

The two players with the best record against him are from a previous generation, perhaps before Bumrah was fully formed. Then you have Pat Cummins hitting him, and a few other players going okay like KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Kane Williamson, David Miller and Ben Stokes. Dinesh Karthik has done incredible work against him.

But maybe the more interesting thing is the players who struggle. The clump in the middle at the bottom has Virat Kohli, David Warner, and Martin Guptill – who try to attack him but can't stay in against him while doing it. Ross Taylor basically stopped trying to score off him, and Chris Gayle played very strategically against him. Gautam Gambhir is another proper player who does not do well against him.

It’s easy to look at players records directly. But what we really wanted to check was the effect he had at the other end. Aashish Rai looked up how often a wicket has fallen the ball after a Bumrah over. He has the second most in the IPL behind Sunil Narine. 

The reason we looked this up was to see his effect beyond just the overs he bowls.

You can see that only T Natarajan has a better record when divided by the total balls bowled. Bumrah comes on, no one hits him, and then someone else often gets a wicket. His bowling is so good that he gets wickets at both ends. 

The other thing we know about Bumrah is that he often bowls the 17th over. Teams know it is coming. They go for whoever is in front of them the over before. The only year teams scored more in the 16th over in the season than in matches involving Bumrah was back in 2013. Since then, teams go after his teammates in the preceding over to make up for what will happen. 

This is important to note. They are not doing it because he’s bowled a great over, but because they expect him to. 

Bumrah also bowls the 19th over a lot. So we checked the 18th as well. The pattern is even more stark. Teams know that the 18th must go, because the 19th is a black hole. Again, only one year was the season average higher than when Bumrah’s team mates were bowling.

He gets wickets at both ends, and you have to attack both sides on him. Jasprit Bumrah is like a giant bowling magnet; everything around him gets warped. 

Like most great T20 bowlers, eventually, people give up attacking him. What is the point? It will bring nothing but heartache and rejection. In IPL 2024, which was the most attacking ever in any T20 competition, batters decided to attack him 37% of the time. 

This is a big reason why. Jasprit Bumrah's top end pace is where he has his best average. The next best is the off-cutting slower balls he bowls, even if they are a little more expensive for him. But he is at his best when he is not bowling express or cutters, but when he’s within himself. Teams scored at four runs an over in IPL 2024 when he was within himself. 

Bumrah is like the scary dude who doesn’t get out of the car to terrify you. Instead, he only needs to drive really slow near someone, and they scare themselves. 

His best bowling is no longer due to his greatest balls, it’s through the threat of what he can do. He’s dominating T20 batters on a metaphysical level. Bumrah is great, but the threat of Bumrah is almost greater.