Bumrah, easily one of the world’s leading fast bowlers in contemporary cricket, has the T20 World Cup due to a stress fracture on his back. It might keep him away for months.
Thomson, who himself bowled 95 mph thunderbolts with an awkward swing action in the 70s and 80s, wants Bumrah to decide which of the three formats he wants to let go.
“Bumrah is putting too much weight on his body and because he plays all formats, he is bound to get injured. It is now up to him to decide what he wants to do,” Thomson told PTI during an interaction.
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Call it politically correct, no player worth his salt would ever say that he would not play Test cricket and opt for shorter versions.
“The crowd wants him to play white-ball cricket and come to the stadium to see him bowl in white-ball cricket. It is just 60 balls (ODI) or 24 balls (T20) depending on which format he plays.
“In Test cricket, he has to bowl 15 overs in a day. You can well understand what formats he has to play to prolong his career. And with World Cups every year, white-ball formats are no less important,” he explained.
But with one ICC tournament penciled in the FTP for the next seven years, the paceman wants Bumrah to weigh all practical possibilities.
“In a player’s career, it’s only a decade that you can bowl at the top. So more than emotion, it’s about what works for you. What makes your career work better and what helps you serve your country longer,” said Thomson, who took 200 Test wickets in 51 matches.
But does that mean Bumrah should opt for white ball formats as it is more popular in today’s time and age.
(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
“It’s about what the crowd wants and what he wants. If people love watching him bowl for India in white-ball cricket and he can help India win World Cups, why should he give up white-ball for others formats?
“That he can’t play all formats is obvious to everyone because of the number of times he gets injured.”
But of course it’s an individual call and one that should be based on what the head says rather than what the heart tells you to do.
“It is up to him to decide how he can continue to serve India for longer. It is a reasoned call and not an emotional call.”
For someone whose javelin like bow and ability to dislocate batsmen’s toes with fiery yorkers (he called them ‘sandshoe breakers’) did not hesitate to admit that general speed building standards had fallen.
“I tend to agree with you on this. I’ll give you an example. We all know that the yorker is the best ball to bowl at the end of an innings. Do you have a single fast bowler yorkers consistently seen?,” he asked.
“Why can’t they bowl 4-5 yorkers in an over? Why is a yorker followed by a half volley or an easy overturned ball. That’s why I say it’s about bowling the right areas or lengths .
“Unless you have that consistency, the standard of bowling will inevitably drop,” says the former pacer, who once took 33 wickets in a single Ashes series.
While Thomson’s bowling was very muscular, all-pace or nothing, he believes that these days – one virtue – pace, swing or seam cannot sustain you for long in international cricket.
Above all comes the mindset and this can be the trump card in elite sport.
“Suppose you are bowling to a very good batsman like Virat Kohli. You have to believe you can get him out. If you don’t believe you can get his wicket, no amount of pace or swing can help you.”
A fast bowler must also carry that attitude and aggression in his game that can intimidate opposition.
“As a fast bowler you also have to have the attitude of one and that is the key to success.”
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BUT FIT ALONE CANNOT BRING SUCCESS
“It’s not just about one thing. You can have all the pace in the world, but if you don’t know how to bowl in the right areas, you won’t get anywhere. “Again, you can move the ball, but if you don’t If you don’t know the right length to bowl, swing won’t help you. Add your mindset to that.”
History tells us that whether it was Ray Lindwall-Keith Miller, Fred Trueman-Brain Statham, Wasim Akram-Waqar Younis or for that matter Thomson and Dennis Lillee, fast bowlers have always bowled in pairs.
It helps if pacers strike a good partnership just like batsmen.
“Absolutely it does. Because the pressure built up from both sides helps tremendously. If the pressure is released from one side, the bowling unit will automatically have a problem. So, if you hunt in pairs, it makes a big difference for the team,” he concluded.