Somewhere in the stands, among the 50,000-plus people screaming for India at the world’s largest cricket stadium at Motera, there will be a middle-aged physical education schoolteacher. Vishnu Desai was Jasprit Bumrah’s ‘PT sir’ at the Nirman High School, where the world’s most unique pacer first fell in love with the game.
After playing 18 Tests, 67 ODIs and 50 T20Is, and five years after his international debut, Bumrah will be finally playing at his home ground in Ahmedabad. Like Desai, many from his school are excited that they will get to watch Bumrah live at the stadium.
Many at the school do get a glimpse of Bumrah as he would drop in occasionally with friends for some nostalgia. Until five years ago, he would also come regularly to pick up his mother, who was the principal of the primary section before she retired.
“Bumrah will park his car near the school ground. He will wait for a few minutes and then will go back. Sometimes, he comes with his old school friends to relive the old days and sometimes he used to come here to pick his mother from school. Post Covid, he hasn’t come here,” Desai says, showing the ground where Bumrah used to train.
Nirman High School is quiet; there are a handful of staff and teachers inside their cabins. A framed picture of Bumrah stares from the school achievements board in the lobby. ‘Ex-student of Nirman – Jasprit Bumrah – we are proud of you’: the line reads with the Bumrah picture in the centre. The notice board has philosophical lines too. ‘Life is the most difficult exam. Many people fail because they try to copy others, not realising that everyone has a different question paper.’
The line sums up Bumrah’s exemplary career till date. With his unique action, he is one of the true originals in the history of this game.
The journey to the top wasn’t easy either. He lost his father at the age of seven and his mother brought up the two kids. At 13, Bumrah landed at Kishore Trivedi’s academy and insisted he be included.
With a shortish run-up as the prelude to a very unusual action, Bumrah bowled at a pace that was tough to handle in the under-14 age category. The veteran coach —the father of well-known medium pacer Siddharth Trivedi — was impressed with the “weird” action.
“Everybody came and told me, ‘Sir, this boy is chucking. Please don’t bowl him.” I went behind the nets and monitored his arms closely. His hand was coming from a different angle, it was unique. I said he is fine,” Trivedi recalls.
He explained how parents of Bumrah’s teammates used to request not to allow him bowl in the nets. “Bachche ko lag jayega, maar dega (the children will get hurt) were the common concerns but I said nothing doing – if one has to play cricket in school, they have to deal with such kind of bowlers. Look what he is doing now for the country,” Trivedi says.
Back at school, Kalpana Bakshi, the principal of the secondary section, still remembers how Bumrah’s mother used to be worried about his son’s future.
“Jasprit was always a quiet guy but mature too. Lot of credit goes to her mother, especially after they lost their father. But I would say, even more than his mother, Jassi always showed lot of maturity in handling situations,” Bakshi says with a broad smile.
Bumrah’s calmness in the death overs and his accuracy with yorkers has made him the most lethal bowler of New India.
The origin of the famous yorker
It all started with an afternoon nap. In order to get some sleep, Daljeet imposed a condition on her son who liked to bowl inside the home in hot summer days. She told him that he could only bowl at the walls if he found a way to keep the noise down. The 12-year-old Bumrah had a eureka moment. The floor skirting, where the wall meets the floor, was chosen as the target as he found that the ball made the least sound when it rebounded off it. Daljeet was happy as she didn’t have to hear the heavier thuds from the floor or the walls and just had to contend with softer sounds. The boy was happy that he could just continue playing cricket. Both barely realised at the time that it would be the formative years of training for the yorker that Jasprit would come to be known for and will become a million-dollar arm.
Trivedi says they used to keep gloves near the batting crease at the academy nets and Bumrah would be only allowed to drink water if he got three yorkers right in one over. Most of the time, he did.
When Bumrah takes his run up at the refurbished stadium, there will be many in the city who will have a smile on their faces.