Even though T20 is a game of big hitters and bowlers only have 24 balls in a match to prove themselves, it’s not difficult to pick the best bowlers at this IPL—just look at Jasprit Bumrah.
In every phase of the match, at every moment of crisis, there are some bowlers, like Bumrah, you can turn to and expect immediate fireworks. With Trent Boult, Bumrah has formed a remarkable opening partnership; be it reducing Delhi Capitals to 0/3 in the first Playoff, or the way they left CSK reeling at 3/4 in an earlier match.
Those are spells 2-4 over spells that essentially won the match.
The highest wicket taker in an IPL season is awarded the Purple Cap, but the most prolific bowler across a season is not necessarily the one with the most impact match to match. Bumrah of course tops the charts right now any which way you care to look at it. No one has a bigger impact in a match with the ball and he performs no matter what the situation.
In T20s, currently the most difficult overs to bowl are the final five at the death. Thirty two percent of the total runs (batting first) in IPL-13 have come in the final five overs, only 41 percent in the longest stretch of 9 middle overs, with 27 percent runs coming in the first 6, despite batsmen enjoying field restrictions in this period. Batsmen score at 10.89 runs per over at the death. The run rate in the opening powerplay and middle overs is below 8.
The resounding success of the Mumbai Indians lies in just this—they have Bumrah to call on at the death. Nearly half of his bowling quota is reserved for the last five, where he has picked up 14 of his 27 wickets, giving away only 7.84 runs per over, the least among all bowlers operating at the death. The captain also turns to him when it’s Super Over time, for his ability to fire in yorker at will. In the two Super Overs he has bowled this season, he gave away only 5 runs in one and stretched Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers to the final ball of another, defending only seven runs.
When it’s time for a critical match-up, MI turns to, you guessed it, Bumrah. Need to get Virat Kohli when he is settling in for a big score? Bring Bumrah. Need Andre Russel to fall? Bring Bumrah. He got both with bouncers in different matches (Russel fell to him twice) but he uses that weapon with discretion. Mostly his battle strategy is to stick to a strict line on the stumps and use his fiery pace, with the yorker thrown in when needed; almost a fourth of his victims were bowled or out LBW this season. One yorker halted the march of an on-song KL Rahul in a close run-chase, a 149kph ball taking his stumps when he was on 77. In the playoff match, it was another scorching yorker that removed an in-form Shikhar Dhawan for nought and effectively ended DC’s chase.
“With Bumrah I don’t talk too much, I just give him the ball and he executes the plan,” captain Rohit Sharma said at the presentation on Thursday.
New Zealand left-armer Trent Boult has proved to be an ideal partner-in-crime for Bumrah. While Bumrah is mostly preserved for the death, Boult takes the burden of the opening powerplay. If Bumrah has 14 wickets at the death, Boult has the same returns from the first six.
Not far off in terms of impact is Rajasthan Royals’ Jofra Archer, who has 20 wickets to his name. He conceded a miserly 6.55 runs per over, with more than half his deliveries being dot balls during the tournament.
Archer’s death overs’ returns—6 wickets at 9.82 runs per over, are nowhere as good as Bumrah’s, but his opening spells have been devastating. 10 of Archer’s 20 wickets have come in the first six overs, five of those 10 coming in opening over. No one did the opening spell better than Archer; it wasn’t just wickets, his economy in the opening powerplay is a miserly 4.34, with nearly 68 percent dot balls—no one has done it better.
The other leading wicket-takers this season, Kagiso Rabada (25) and Mohammed Shami (20) too have been productive at the death with 16 and 11 wickets, respectively, they also leaked more runs than their teams would have hoped for. Rabada has the best returns in terms of wickets at the death, where he has peppered batsmen with the short stuff.