Far from a bum rap, Bumrah deserves Tendulkar’s blessing
Legendary batsman says Indian is the best in the world – let’s see how Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir respond
India have played 256 matches in the almost six years since Sachin Tendulkar retired, but when he talks 1.3 billion people still listen. And they were all ears on Sunday when Tendulkar said, in conversation with Yuvraj Singh for IPLT20.com, “Let me go on record and say that he is the best bowler in the world at this stage.”
Did Tendulkar mean Imran Tahir, whose 26 wickets led this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL)? Or Kagiso Rabada, who had the best average and the best strike rate for bowlers who sent down at least 40 overs in the tournament? Or Rashid Khan and his economy rate of 6.28 – the lowest in the 40-over club?
None of the above. Tendulkar was talking about Jasprit Bumrah.
Four bowlers took more wickets in the IPL than the India seamer with the awkward Statue of Liberty action, and he was sixth, fourth and 10th in terms of average, economy rate and strike rate among those who had bowled 40 and more overs.
Surely Tendulkar hadn’t proclaimed his compatriot’s pre-eminence on the thin evidence of him taking 2/14 to help Mumbai Indians beat Chennai Super Kings in the final in Hyderabad on Sunday?
Three bowlers in the same game took as many or more wickets than Bumrah, and two had economy rates as good or better than his. Bumrah wasn’t even the best bowler at the IPL, or in the final, never mind the world.
What was Tendulkar smoking?
He is, of course, entitled to his opinion – which will be taken much more seriously by an exponentially greater number of people than the thoughts of some contrary reporter far from the nexus of the global game.
But Tendulkar has issued a challenge that will have been heard far and wide, including by Rabada and Tahir and every other bowler who, injury permitting, will mark out a run-up at the World Cup in England from the end of the month.
Bumrah will be among them, and it is unlikely to help him give of his best in his first trip to the tournament that he will arrive weighed down by the blessing of so towering a figure.
In the only other ODIs Bumrah has played in England – five in the 2017 Champions Trophy – he took four wickets at an average of 52.50, and economy and strike rates of 5.00 and 63. That put him 15th among bowlers with at least 40 overs behind them in the tournament. He was 10th in the averages, ninth in economy rate terms, and 13th on the list of strike rates.
In three Tests in England last August and September, Bumrah took 14 wickets at 25.92 – as many scalps and at a better average than Ben Stokes and in one less match.
But he had at his disposal the Dukes ball, which is more responsive to fast bowlers’ wiles because of its more pronounced seams. At the World Cup, Bumrah, like everybody, else will have to make do with the Kookaburra, the batters’ best friend.And, of course, with a queue of competitors far longer than Rabada and Tahir itching to prove Tendulkar wrong.