Indian pacer Jasprit Bumrah says he feels most comfortable bowling with the Dukes ball manufactured in England, compared to India’s SG Test or the Australian Kookaburra, as it provides even an competition in a game that is increasingly loaded in favour of batsmen.

During a chat organised by the International Cricket Council with former West Indies pacer Ian Bishop and former South African captain Shaun Pollock, Bumrah spoke on a range of issues, including how he developed an outswinger (for right-handers) and the secret behind his eight-step run-up that manages to generate good pace.

“I love bowling with the Dukes ball. It seams, it swings. It does help as it is difficult to be a fast bower with grounds getting shorter and wickets getting flatter,” said Bumrah. “So if the ball does something, it becomes an even competition. So you feel you are in the game. With no help, you only have a few things to play with. So I enjoy bowling most with Dukes ball.”

Asked how he developed his outswinger, which becomes an inswinger for left-handers, Bumrah said that it was a gradual process.

“I always want to bring new things. My different action, may be once or twice people will be surprised, but they will find you out. So you need to improve and keep on evolving,” said the 26-year-old.

“I had the outswinger but when I came to the international set-up, I wasn’t confident about it. May be it wasn’t coming out well, may be it was about the pace, you should have the feel of it. Slowly, you work on it in the nets. In the West Indies, the ball (Dukes with pronounced seam) was helpful, conditions were helpful,” he said.

Bumrah said that many people advised him to increase his run-up but he felt that his pace never increased by doing that. His unconventional action has been under the scanner for long, with greats like Michael Holding terming it injury prone.

“Basically, I have never been coached a lot. No professional coaching or camps. Till date, everything is self-taught, I have learned everything through the television and videos. There is no proper reason behind my action. I have never really listened to people who said that my action needs to be changed, I kept developing my strengths and had self belief,” said Bumrah.

“Playing in the backyard, my run-up was always small as we didn’t have much space, so this (eight step run-up) is the longest that I could have had. I have tried longer run-ups but nothing changes, the speed is still the same so there’s no need to run so much.”

Bumrah also said he won’t miss the hugs and high-fives as part of a wicket celebration but he will certainly miss applying saliva on the ball and feels an alternative should be provided for the same.

The ICC Cricket Committee, led by former India captain Anil Kumble, recommended a ban on using saliva on the ball as an interim measure to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. However, the committee did not allow the use of artificial substances as a substitute.

The new rule makes life tougher for the bowlers and Bumrah, like many former and current fast bowlers, feels there ought to be an alternative.

“I was not much of a hugger anyway and not a high-five person as well, so that doesn’t trouble me a lot. The only thing that interests me is the saliva bit,” he said. “I don’t know what guidelines we’ll have to follow when we come back, but I feel there should be an alternative.

“If the ball is not well maintained, it’s difficult for the bowlers. The grounds are getting shorter and shorter, the wickets are becoming flatter and flatter. So we need something, some alternative for the bowlers to maintain the ball so that it can do something – maybe reverse in the end or conventional swing.”

Bumrah, though, agreed with Bishop that the conditions have been favourable for fast bowlers over the last couple of years.

“In Test match cricket, yes. That is why it’s my favourite format, because we have something over there. But in one-day cricket and T20 cricket… one-day cricket there are two new balls, so it hardly reverses at the end,” he said.

“We played in New Zealand, the ground (boundary) was 50 metres. So even if you are not looking to hit a six, it will go for six. In Test matches I have no problem, I’m very happy with the way things are going.”

The right-arm pacer said he finds it amusing that batsmen often complain about the swinging ball.

“Whenever you play, I’ve heard the batsmen – not in our team, everywhere – complaining the ball is swinging,” he said. “But the ball is supposed to swing. The ball is supposed to do something. We are not here just to give throwdowns, isn’t it?

“This is what I tell batsmen all the time. In one-day cricket, when did the ball reverse last, I don’t know. Nowadays the new ball doesn’t swing a lot as well. So whenever I see batsmen say the ball is swinging or seaming and that is why I got out – the ball is supposed to do that. Because it doesn’t happen so much in the other formats, it’s a new thing for the batsmen when the ball is swinging or seaming.”

Bumrah, like others, finds himself in an unusual position as he has not bowled for over two months due to the lockdown. When India will play next is unclear and the fast bowler said he is not sure about how his body will hold up when he returns to action.

“I really don’t know how your body reacts when you don’t bowl for two-three months. I’m trying to keep up with training so that as soon as the grounds open up, the body is in decent shape. I’ve been training almost six days a week but I’ve not bowled for a long period of time so I don’t know how the body will react when I bowl the first ball,” he said.

“I’m looking at it as a way to renew your own body. We’ll never get such a break again, so even if you have a small niggle here and there, you can be a refreshed person when you come back. You can prolong your career.”

Bumrah has risen rapidly in international cricket despite experts having reservations about his longevity due to his unorthodox action. He said he sees similarities in his career graph with Swedish footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

“Our personalities are different, but the story I could relate to is that not many people thought he would make it big. There was a similar case with me growing up as well. Wherever I went, it was the general feedback from people that ‘this guy would not do anything, he would not be a top-rated bowler, he won’t be able to play for a long period of time with this kind of action’. So, having the self-belief is important and the only validation that is required is your own validation. I saw that in his (Ibrahimovic’s) story, so that’s the thing I could relate to,” said Bumrah.


(With inputs from PTI)