Rejuvenated Bumrah true architect of India`s 3rd straight series win in Ireland

The Men in Blue will leave Ireland victorious on every front after the latter collapsed spectacularly in the balmy Dublin air, nearly prevailing over the Indian top-order with Ruturaj Gaikwad’s crucial wicket from a position of strength to go down by 37 runs in the second T20I. Captain Jasprit Bumrah has to strike a perfect balance between adding miles to his legs and putting his team`s bench-strength in check as India aim to complete a comfortable clean-sweep against Ireland in the three-match T20 series on Wednesday.

It is no secret that the Indian skipper for the series has looked comfortable in the eight overs across two matches but will need to take an informed call if he intends to play a third consecutive game on the bounce in five days even though it is merely a T20 affair.

In a way, Bumrah set up the two games as he set up the Irish batsmen: starving, stifling, strangling, sadistically eliminating all other possibilities until only one remained. As much as Prasidh Krishna with his menacing pace or Ravi Bishnoi with his perseverance or Arshdeep Singh with his rhythmic swing, it was Bumrah who mapped out India’s triumph from start to finish. And at the bejewelled heart of this performance was the electrifying comeback spell in the first T20 that broke that game in half.

The collapse at the end (had rain gods been kinder to the hosts) will live long in the memory, a collective spasm of panic that turned a tight chase into a thrashing. But Ireland’s late middle-order, along with opener Andrew Balbirnie’s fireworks, had been left with no choice but to hit wildly after the innings stagnated as they sought a mammoth 185 to win.

For much of the night, this had been a wild bare-knuckle brawl of a match that kept barrelling on without taking a breath. The promised high-scoring contest did, indeed, materialise on this tight ground and India’s 184, an inning of eight sixes and not a lot of quick singles, left Ireland cribbing and crying. But they began with some intent. 

Balbirnie held the fort with two well-placed fours, one past long leg and the other to deep square off Washington Sundar’s delivery. Curtis Campher’s dismissal was a caught-and-bowled affair, expertly pouched by Shivam Dube stationed at the point. It was angsty cricket for a while as Ireland thrashed and the audience roared and wailed at the hilarity of it all. 

With Ireland 122 for five at the end of the 16th over, the game was still wide open – until Arshdeep produced a game-changing moment as he sent a fuller ball just outside off to power-hitter Balbirnie. The tension was palpable as Balbirnie took a swing at it, only to find the faintest of edges. Their progress was made all the more difficult by the ever-climbing asking rate that often hovered around 12 and above. But true to the Irish legacy, they fought bravely.

Whether the final T20 will see Bumrah slice his way through the Irish batting line-up remains to be seen. The all-conquering all-format player is becoming an increasingly endangered species. Perhaps there will come a point when he, too, like others, has to bend to the inevitabilities of the schedule and the market and his own wearying body, when the potential strands of his career slowly winnow away until only one remains.

But for now, all possibilities remain stirringly on the table. Just as there was no inevitability to Bumrah’s rise as a world-class bowler, it was never inevitable that this talent would be able or willing to master the many arts of the shortest format. And so perhaps this is a moment to set aside the Irish disappointment and Irish sorrow: a moment instead to cherish, to savour, even to give quiet thanks.

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In fact, the more Bumrah and Krishna bowl, the fitter they will get, better the rhythm will be and greater the pace in their deliveries — ingredients that are a must to cook a perfect recipe to trouble staunch rivals Pakistan in the upcoming Asia Cup and the marquee ODI World Cup.

However, the skipper along with stand-in head coach Sitanshu Kotak will also have to keep in mind that there is an Asian Games to be played and some of the reserve bench players might just be undercooked.

The inconsequential third game gives this think-tank a chance to check out players like Avesh Khan, Jitesh Sharma, Shahbaz Ahmed, who have not yet been handed a chance to play in the series.

In fact, Avesh, who was also with the team during the West Indies T20 series has been benched for seven straight matches and if he is again kept on the sidelines, he will go into Asian Games without any game time, which might be detrimental for both him and the team.

It is unlikely that there will be any change in the batting order unless the team management decides to rest Sanju Samson and try out Jitesh before the Asian Games.

However Samson, who is a senior player in this set-up, might not want to sit out as his place in the World Cup squad is far from assured and he would like to carry on from where he left in the second game when he scored 40 off 26 balls.

Arshdeep, meanwhile, has got a long rope and his has been a mixed bag so far after he failed to show consistency in nailing the yorkers during the death overs in the past seven T20 games. Avesh with his pace or Mukesh Kumar with subtle variations could be tried out at Malahide, which has been a reasonably okay strip for willow wielders although it does get slower towards the end.

With Rinku Singh announcing his arrival on the international stage with a 21-ball-38 in the second game, India`s T20 squad seems like getting that second finisher after Suryakumar Yadav in the shortest format.

The likes of Rinku, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Gaikwad would like to stamp their authority as this will be the last bilateral T20 series before the next one against Australia which will be held in the month of November.


India: Jasprit Bumrah (C), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Sanju Samson (wk), Jitesh Sharma (wk), Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Ravi Bishnoi, Prasidh Krishna, Arshdeep Singh, Mukesh Kumar, Avesh Khan

Ireland: Paul Stirling (C), Andrew Balbirnie, Mark Adair, Ross Adair, Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Fionn Hand, Josh Little, Barry McCarthy, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Theo van Woerkom, Ben White, Craig Young

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