Whenever Rohit Sharma has found himself in times of trouble, be it for India or for the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, Jasprit Bumrah has been a perfect ace up the sleeve.

Much like Indians fans of yore would breathe a sigh of relief when Sachin Tendulkar or, later on, Virat Kohli walked out to bat, there is a sense of hope that the odds will swing back in India’s favour when Bumrah is handed the ball.

Bumrah proved it once again on Saturday, as India beat South Africa by seven runs in the 2024 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup final.

Picking three left-arm spinners was always going to be a gamble for India at the World Cup. It had not backfired yet for the Sharma-led team at the event in the United States and West Indies.

But on Saturday, in the final in Barbados against South Africa, Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel were up against two of the best players of spin in the world – David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen.

As long as those two were still at the crease, South Africa believed.

Over 14 was Yadav’s to bowl – the first four balls were good and then he was hit for a four and six. The equation then was 54 needed from 36 balls. Then Patel came on and was taken apart by Klaasen – 24 runs off one over and now South Africa needed a run-a-ball 30.

India needed to stutter the South African charge and if a wicket came in the process, that would be a bonus. Bring on Bumrah.

The first ball of the 16th over nearly brought India that much coveted wicket, when Miller barely negotiated the length ball angled into him and the inside edge just whispered past the stumps.

Three balls later, Klaasen was almost cleaned up by the perfect yorker, as he scrambled frantically to dig it out.

With 26 now required from 24 and both South African batters appropriately rattled, Hardik Pandya got the better of Klaasen.

Bumrah returned for his final over and threaded the gap between new batter Marco Jansen’s bat and pad with an in-swinging delivery that rattled the leg stump.

In his final two overs, Bumrah picked up a wicket and gave away just six runs to put India on course for what would be a thrilling title win at the T20 World Cup in Barbados. In the process, Bumrah staked his claim as the greatest T20 bowler ever.

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Reliable and consistent

Whether it is limited overs or Test matches, Bumrah has become the lynchpin for India across formats. The accuracy and precision that he executes with every ball makes him nearly unplayable on every surface and in all types of conditions.

What his captains have used him for is for the purpose of wresting back control from the opposition – exactly what he did in Bridgetown on Saturday.

Peep at his numbers at this World Cup. He finished with 15 wickets at an average of 8.26 and an astonishing economy rate of 4.17.

An economy rate of 4.17 in a 50-over World Cup these days is stunning enough. But to have it in the shortest format of the game is all the more impressive. It was also the best-ever economy rate at a single edition of the Men’s T20 World Cup.

That economy rate is what makes Bumrah worth his weight in gold, diamonds and all the rarest gemstones in the world. These numbers were also the reason he was named the Player of the Tournament – the second specialist bowler to receive the accolade after England’s Sam Curran took the crown in the 2022 edition.

The kind of pressure that Bumrah builds with his yorkers and favoured swing induces batters to take caution in his over and then play under pressure in the following over. Often, the benefit of taking wickets ends up falling to the bowler that follows Bumrah – Pandya’s wicket of Klaasen was set up by Bumrah’s probing deliveries.

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When Bumrah does get a wicket, it’s often a thing of beauty – the ball crashing into the stumps and one sent cartwheeling. Or it’s a toe-crushing yorker sent straight into the feet of the batter, who is left utterly confused on how to play it.

Against South Africa, it was the outswinger that outfoxed an unmoving Reeza Hendricks and gave India the perfect start.

Against Afghanistan, in the Super 8 stage, where he picked up incredible figures of 3/7, it was a wider ball that Rahmanullah Gurbaz edged to Rishabh Pant. Against Pakistan, it was the big wicket of Babar Azam who poked at a regulation length delivery and edged it to slip where Suryakumar Yadav took a brilliant catch.

More often than not, Bumrah gets wickets in the Powerplay, giving India that extra surge of belief that they can accomplish anything, especially the victory.

Virat Kohli (L), Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah (R) with their winners medals at the ICC Men's T20 World Cup (Credit: Randy BROOKS / AFP)

The master

It’s been a World Cup for the bowlers – a majority of the Player of the Match awards have been handed to bowlers. Bumrah himself has won two – against Ireland and Pakistan.

The batters have had to work hard at runs as opposed to smashing the ball to all corners of the park. No batter managed to score a century in the tournament and there have been a record three hat-tricks – two from Australia’s Pat Cummins and one by Chris Jordan of England.

For Bumrah, who is a bowler’s bowler through and through, it was something of a relief after having spent two months seeing his colleagues across the world suffer at the bats of big hitters like Travis Head, Klaasen, Quinton de Kock, Kohli and many more in the IPL.

The 30-year-old pacer has always advocated for a better balance between bat and ball, whether it was during the IPL, or the bowler-friendly conditions in the USA and West Indies.

But what also lends to India’s title triumph is that Bumrah manages to extract pace and swing from pitches irrespective of their nature. In the only match he didn’t take a wicket, against the USA, he conceded just 25 runs in his spell.

Sharma in his post-match remarks on Saturday was just as stunned as West Indies legend Ian Bishop when asked to describe Bumrah’s spell. Terming it as a “masterclass”, Sharma knows better than most the brilliance that is Jasprit Bumrah.

What also contributes to his mastery is his calmness and level-headedness. A fiery fast bowler spitting in and demolishing stumps with the temperament of a kindly nurse – Bumrah rarely shows emotions even after dismissing some of the world’s best batters. Kohli and Pandya often celebrate enough for him on the sidelines.

But on Saturday, as Pandya sank to his knees and Kohli was in tears, there was a ray of sunshine that burst through the rain in Barbados – Bumrah with the widest smile he has ever shown. The indomitable fast bowler was, after all, on top of the world.