Jasprit Bumrah's physics, chemistry and maths this T20 World Cup

Jasprit Bumrah is operating at a level we have rarely seen in cricket before


Five years ago, an IIT Kanpur professor decoded the science behind Jasprit Bumrah’s art. In a study he did on the bowler’s action, aerospace engineer Sanjay Mittal found that “Bumrah’s speed, seam position and rotational speed of 1,000rpm give only 0.1 spin ratio for the ball, hence putting it into reverse Magnus effect regime.”

I won’t even try to unpack that sentence, but it does signify that what Bumrah has been doing for years, and more specifically since his return from injury last year, is freakish enough to warrant deeper study by the world of science.

Now Bumrah himself might not understand the madness behind his method in scientific terms, but he did put on a display for the ages at this World Cup. In fact, were he an aspiring IIT student, professors like Mittal would have been proud of Bumrah’s physics, maths and chemistry at this tournament.

Let’s start with the physics. Through a quirk of his action, as Mittal explains in his study, Bumrah gets more dip on the ball. This simply means that the ball pitches before the spot the batter is expecting it to. This is just one of Bumrah’s weapons. Another is his ability to essentially bowl off spin at pace. His off-cutters spin a lot and batters generally don’t expect this from a fast bowler. See the dismissals of Travis Head and Phil Salt in this tournament.

Other bowlers could do this, too, but that is where accuracy comes in. Every bowler worth his salt knows where to pitch the ball. Actually doing it is the hard part. Bumrah has that down to a science. Physics, if you will.

And then come the biomechanics. As Australian analyst and writer Jarrod Kimber writes, “[Bumrah has the] ability to shorten the wicket. Because of his weird action, he delivers the ball closer to batters than most players. He is playing on a shorter wicket. In some cases, around half a metre closer at release point than other main bowlers. That is a huge advantage.

“His run up is also an advantage. Fast bowling is too quick for our reflexes as humans, so the top players gather as much information as possible as the bowler is running in. Bumrah cuts that down by simply not having a long run up. Wasim Akram was another bowler who did this and caused chaos.”

Pace ace: Bumrah with wife, Sanjana, and son, Angad | Instagram@sanjanaganesan Pace ace: Bumrah with wife, Sanjana, and son, Angad | Instagram@sanjanaganesan

All this physics leads to maths, i.e., the numbers. In a pool of mind-boggling numbers, this one stands out the most―of the 178 balls he bowled in the World Cup, 110 were dots. This is in the T20 format, mind you. His economy of 4.17 in this tournament would be more than acceptable in an ODI World Cup and some may even allow it in a Test match in the Bazball era.

But more important, Bumrah not only restricted runs, he also took wickets―15 of them, only two behind tournament leaders Fazalhaq Farooqi and Arshdeep Singh. And remember, not only does Bumrah take his own wickets, the pressure he builds up with his bowling allows others to get some scalps, too.

This World Cup performance was not unexpected. And this might not even be his most impressive series since returning from injury. In this year’s IPL, which was the highest-scoring season in history, Bumrah went at 6.48 runs an over. This was a tournament where 270 was breached three times, and Travis Head and Abhishek Sharma got 125 runs in the first six overs in a game against Delhi Capitals.

Since his return from injury in August, after missing nearly a year of action, Bumrah has taken 78 wickets in 33 matches across formats at an average and strike rate of 15.47 and 24.5. His career average and strike rate are 21.10 and 33.4.

There was speculation about what level of Bumrah would emerge after the injury. Whether he would be able to match his already brilliant record. But not only did he do that, he is also currently on a run that has rarely been seen before. The numbers don’t lie.

Which brings us to the last subject―chemistry. And Sanjana Ganesan. The ICC digital media presenter, and wife to Bumrah, interviewed him a couple of times during the World Cup, and lifted the veil of the super serious competitor on the field. In a clip of them talking after the India-Pakistan match in New York, she signs off by saying, “We’ll see you again very soon and congratulations on your second win.” To this, he replies, “We’ll see you in 30 minutes.” A laughing Ganesan comes back with a cheeky “What’s for dinner?” In the final, just after India had pulled off a narrow win, Bumrah sprinted into the arms of a waiting Ganesan, hugging her tightly as the team celebrated around them. He then took his winner’s medal and put it around the neck of his infant son Angad, who seemed nonplussed with the crowd roaring for his father. It was another wholesome moment that showed fans a side to Bumrah not many have access to.

But chemistry isn’t only about banter with your partner. It is also about the relationship with the men you share the dressing room with. In the past few years, Bumrah has become a leader of the bowling group across formats. This means pulling them out of a rut, advising them on where to bowl and keeping the unit together as one to achieve the team’s goal.

A teary-eyed Mohammed Siraj, for whom Bumrah has played translator in the past, had this to say after the final: “I only believe in Jassi bhai. Jasprit Bumrah is the only game-changer.” Siraj, the most emotional of the Indian bunch, also gave him a placard saying, “Bumrah―best bowler on land, air and water”.

With this version of Jasprit Bumrah, India have found a hero who is possibly bordering on ‘legend’ territory. But, at the end of the day, Bumrah is and will remain a student of the game. And an A+ student at that.