Sidharth Monga at the MCG
Virat Kohli, the best batsman in the world today, doesn’t want to face Jasprit Bumrah. That’s a scary message for the batsmen world over. After India took an unassailable 2-1 series lead, checking the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in for a return journey to India, the best batsman in the world spoke glowingly of the best bowler in the world, at least across formats put together if there are people yet to be convinced of Bumrah’s status in each individual format.
Bumrah began the year as a surprise entrant into Test cricket after having played no first-class cricket in 2017, but has ended up with five-fors in all the countries he has gone to. He has the best yearly haul for an Indian fast bowler, and is a lock to be the fastest Indian quick to 50 Test wickets. His captain was ever so grateful. Kohli began with talking about bringing Bumrah into the longest format through the unconventional route.
“I think the fact that he was showing amazing levels of energy and fitness in white-ball cricket and hence he was so good because he was not giving runs with the new ball, he was getting wickets, he would come back in the death overs and not bowl one loose delivery,” Kohli said. “He was training like he wanted to play Test cricket, he was that obsessed about his fitness levels and his work ethics. So we discussed before South Africa that if we put him as a surprise package, he could be lethal if he gets his lines and lengths right.”
Bumrah is blessed with a freak action, but it is his sharp mind as much as that action that sets him apart.
“The mindset he has is what separates him from anyone else in the world right now,” Kohli said. “He looks at the pitch, and he doesn’t think, ‘Oh it’s a hard toil on this wicket.’ He thinks how can I take make a breakthrough for the team and your mindset separates you from the rest. He is as strong-headed as I have seen anyone in the past, and that’s the key to his success, that’s what I have seen in the past 12 months.
“The way he has matured in Test cricket, and the areas he has bowled so quickly in his Test career, I think it’s a scary sign for the batsmen around the world in Test cricket. I mean if there is a pitch like Perth, I wouldn’t want to face Jasprit Bumrah to be honest because if he gets on a roll he can really crank it up and the way he bowls is so much more different to anyone and I think he realises that more than the batsmen, and that’s why he is so confident about his skills.”
Kohli went on to call Bumrah the best bowler in the world.
Now that the series can’t be lost, India can breathe a little easy, but Bumrah’s partners in Sydney – a Test, Kohli said, India want to win and not just hang on to for a draw – will be crucial. It is a pitch that Tim Paine expects to turn, which makes R Ashwin’s fitness that much more important.
“I think Ashwin’s very close to being match-fit,” Kohli said. “He has been bowling a lot of overs, and I’m sure these next four days [three] will make him even stronger. So regardless it being the last Test match, he will be willing to push himself and start for the team, but again it depends on what kind of pitch we get in Sydney.”
Kohli’s focus on the nature of pitch might suggest Ashwin might get in only if they play two spinners. At the moment, though, they don’t want to think too much about Sydney.
“We are very happy,” Kohli said. “Leading the series for the first time in Australia. We will take the trophy back home regardless of what happens in the last Test. Although our aim is to win the series here, which is what we came here thinking and that hasn’t changed regardless of whatever happened. But it is important to realise this moment, and it is important to understand how much hard work we have put in to reach this scoreline. We have to appreciate that as a whole team.”