In November-December 2017, India hosted Sri Lanka for three Test matches and went on to win the series 1-0. An innings victory in the second Test was enough for Virat Kohli and Co to claim the trophy.
While the bowling department did a fine job for India in that series, it did so without the services of an up-and-coming talent who many thought was ready for red-ball cricket at the biggest stage.
Jasprit Bumrah had two years of international cricket experience under his belt back then. After making his mark in the Indian Premier League, he had become a regular for India in white-ball cricket.
Many believed he was ready to take the plunge in Test cricket too. He was highly skilled, had the fire, and above all, had a calm head on his shoulders.
However, Ravi Shastri, who was the Indian team’s head coach at the time, had a different plan up his sleeve. He knew Bumrah would take to Test cricket immediately but he wanted to “unleash” him at the right time. And that, for him, was the Test series in South Africa which was scheduled to begin in January 2018.
In a conversation with Star Sports during ‘The Ravi Shastri’ show, the former India cricketer revealed how he asked the selectors to introduce Bumrah directly in South Africa and them not to play him in India for his debut.
“I made Bharat Arun (then bowling coach) call him (Bumrah) up and let him know that be ready. You might just get a call up. I spoke to Virat, spoke to the selectors. I said not in India… don’t even bring him into the 15 in India. Unleash him straight in South Africa,” Shastri said during the show.
Shastri’s move didn’t disappoint.
India headed into the three-Test series without playing any practice game. In fact, such was their schedule that they managed to fit in just a few practice sessions through a week before the first match at Cape Town.
It was his debut game, he didn’t have much red-ball practice under his belt either, but no one who saw Bumrah bowl at Newlands could say he wasn’t a Test regular.
India went on to lose the first two Tests and with it the series, but Bumrah had done enough in those games to prove he was a rare talent. And it didn’t take long for the visitors to reap the rewards as the right-arm pacer bagged a five-wicket haul in the third Test at Johannesburg to help India end the series with a win.
It was undoubtedly an impressive debut Test series for Bumrah. He picked only seven wickets in the first two games, but his wide range of skills made everyone sit up and take notice as he bagged a five-for in the third Test.
And since then, the pacer has only grown from strength to strength, helping India to a number of memorable victories.
Bumrah's record across formats
Bumrah at home and away
Here’s a look at Bumrah’s wickets in his debut Test series: