In football equivalence, the 2019 Indian Premier League final would be a 4-3 game where the defences of both sides were ordinary and the winner coming in the final minute: error-strewn, nightmare for coaches but a spectacle that fans love. As Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni said after the match, the two teams were passing the trophy to each other during the match before the side that committed fewer errors — Mumbai Indians — emerged with the victory.

A record fourth IPL for Rohit Sharma and MI. A match that went down to the very last ball where, as Ravi Shastri would have muttered to himself where ever he was watching, all three results were still possible. A last over that will go down as one of the final chapters in Lasith Malinga’s rich legacy of game-winning performances. A margin of win victory that could not have been any smaller.

In all that chaos, one man stood tall with his perfection in more ways than one: Jasprit Bumrah.

Superb spell of bowling

Here’s a situational breakdown of three of the four overs Bumrah bowled in the final:

  • In the 4th over, Krunal Pandya went for 14 runs as Faf du Plessis took charge (and eventually gave his wicket away). Bumrah came on to bowl the 5th over and conceded just five runs.
  • In the 16th over, Malinga went for 20 runs as Shane Watson cut loose. Bumrah came on to bowl the 17th over and conceded four runs.
  • In the 18th over, Rohit Sharma’s surprise choice of Krunal also went for 20 runs. Bumrah came on to bowl the 19th over and conceded five runs — not including the four byes off the final ball, when Quinton de Kock made what could have proved to be a fatal mistake. (More on that later).

Clearly, every time MI were under the pump, Bumrah calmed things down and dragged his side back into the match.

And an indicator of how there was a clear plan to his bowling is evident from his pitch map. With the CSK batsmen punishing anything full, Bumrah hardly bowled a ball in the slot or fuller. He resisted the yorkers at the death too and focused on extracting bounce from length at full tilt. Both his wickets came off short deliveries that hurried the batsmen.

Bumrah's pitch-map in the IPL final
Bumrah's pitch-map in the IPL final

And finally, in an innings where a total of 12 fours and six sixes were hit by CSK, not a single boundary was conceded by Bumrah in the four overs he bowled. Words can hardly do justice to such a complete bowling performance in a high-pressure match with so many expectations on his shoulder.

“We know finals can be close, so wanted to stay calm,” Bumrah said, matter-of-fact, when he was correctly declared player of the final. “Winning fourth title for Mumbai makes me very happy. Today I was surprisingly very calm. Wasn’t panicking, just focusing on the next ball. Doesn’t help taking extra pressure, instead I back my skills.”

More than just his bowling

Having said all that above, May 12, 2019 will go down in IPL history as the night Bumrah truly became one of those Indian cricketers who transcends franchise loyalties. He has always been a favourite among the Indian fans, but he is slowly reaching cult status in terms of popularity across the cricketing world — not just for his bowling skills, but for how he plays the game.

Consider this: it was the 17th over of the CSK innings, when Watson had just started going ballistic. Bumrah comes in and bowls a searing bouncer that the Aussie opener mishits and it goes straight to Rahul Chahar, who spills it. The game could have been over right then and there for MI but it was not to be. It was a big blunder by a young cricketer. And what did Bumrah do? Flash the biggest smile he could have and walk back to his run-up.

And then, consider this: in the all-important 19th over, Bumrah has managed to keep the CSK batsmen in check and it looked like whoever bowled the last over would have the cushion of defending a double-digit score. He runs in to bowl the last ball of his spell and it is another booming short ball that beats the batsman, but unfortunately, his own wicket-keeper as well. De Kock spills the ball, as it races for a boundary. In the immediate aftermath, Bumrah was frustrated. But soon enough, he went up to the South African, checked with him what happened (the ball swerved, de Kock seems to say) and then puts an arm around the South African’s shoulder and gives him a pat.

Yes, with a smile on his face.

In this era of cricket where raw emotion like a cry of anguish, gesturing of hands or a few choice words in mother tongue sells the best, Bumrah went old school. As he often does.

“The ball was reversing when de Kock missed the ball, but we wanted to stay calm since similar things happened against Pune in 2017 as well. We always believed in our team this season. We have confidence in each and every individual. On their given day, any of our players can be matchwinners,” Bumrah said after the match.

It’s that temperament to understand the situation and not be fazed by it, but embrace it whole-heartedly, has made Bumrah the superstar he is today.

He ran in hard all season... well, in his own way. His radar rarely misfired. He delivered results for his captain almost every single time. He picked up some big wickets, if not plenty of wickets, because he understood his role and how teams want to see him out. He believed in himself, backed his skills to bowl the most difficult overs, time and time again. He did it all with a smile, without uttering a swear word or send-offs to batsmen. It would be preachy to say that this is the correct way to play cricket, but it certainly is the most endearing.

On the night of the final, he stuck his landing like a superhero. And that’s what he has become for not just Mumbai Indians, but to Indian cricket as well.

Note: The article originally said that Krunal Pandya bowled the 5th over while Jasprit Bumrah bowled the 6th. The information has now been corrected.