Jasprit Bumrah - India's golden goose
It was a scorcher of a morning at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica, and the hosts were mortally wounded by a devastating spell of high-paced swing bowling the previous evening and were hanging by the ghost of a thread at 87/7 on Day 3.
Off the first delivery of the fifth over, Mohammed Shami made the ball climb steep and quick, hurrying debutant Antiguan Rahkeem Cornwall, who could only fend it to gully. His teammates mobbed the bowler to celebrate his 150th Test wicket - third quickest Indian pacer to the milestone.
As Bumrah started to jog from deep fine leg, Shami raised his hand and gesticulated like a traffic cop. It appeared he did not want Bumrah to waste his energy by coming all the way to the side of the pitch, only to jog back to his position for the next delivery. On air, Ian Bishop noticed this exchange and called it the "long distance high fives."
That India have won the fast bowling lottery with Bumrah has become quite evident over the last two years. A gifted bowler that has the talent, ability and control to bowl inswingers and outswinger, move the ball off the seam, bowl accurate yorkers, keep the batsmen honest with bouncers - all at 90 mph or more. And then there's a slow yorker.
When India toured the West Indies in 1989, there was a young boy, yet to turn 16, who felt he should have been on the trip as he thought he was ready to take on the best fast bowlers in the world - Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Ian Bishop - in their home conditions. The Indian selectors were concerned that the precocious talent exposed to physical hurt so early in his career might not be able to rebound, as it was obvious to them that as long as the boy kept working hard at the gifts he had, he would be an all time great.
No Indian cricketer since Sachin Tendulkar in 1989 has come along with such confluence of ability, skill, maturity and potential that the first instinct from within the Indian setup appears to be to protect them well to ensure a long and successful career, as has Bumrah.
Even with an unusual bowling action, Bumrah made his way through white-ball cricket and impressed with his ability and consistency. It is an interesting turn of events that his performance in the longest format of the game would make him a household name while he came into prominence without any first-class experience, but on the strength of his performance in India's domestic T20 tournament in 2013. As much as the 10 wickets he took in nine Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament matches for Gujarat, it would be his ability to bowl at the death, and his bowling action that would make the IPL scouts from Mumbai Indians take notice.
As he progressed further on the national cricket radar, Bumrah became part of India A sides. A knee injury suffered in a warm up football game while representing West Zone in Duleep trophy in 2014 brought a temporary halt to his upward surge. His worth to his IPL side (and future of Indian cricket team) meant he received all the medical attention and excellent rehab support. It would then be an injury to Shami, that would allow Bumrah to earn his ODI cap in Australia in the last game of the bilateral series, followed by T20I cap in the three-match series that India swept, which led MS Dhoni to point to the pacer as the "find" of the tour.
It was in the 2019 World Cup that the world really had a front row seat to the pacer's mastery with the white ball. Not since the peak of his IPL teammate and mentor Lasith Malinga has cricket seen a bowler deliver yorkers at will with such pinpoint accuracy, regularity and devastation as Bumrah in the World Cup. A series of six searing yorkers at Afghanistan batsmen in the 49th over when they were attempting a heist against India was one of the highlights of his campaign, which involved coming to India's resue everytime Kohli turned to him.
For all his accomplishments in limited overs cricket, Bumrah's value to India and the truest validation of his greatness as a fast bowler would be realised as he made his Test debut in South Africa, and when he took his first five-wicket haul in the third Test. As the series ended in the Caribbean with Bumrah leading the bowling charts adding two more fifers, Kohli sang paens of the gem he had at his disposal. "It's really pleasing to see a guy who was tagged as a T20 specialist first, and then he came in and took over the ODI scene, and now he's taking over Test cricket. So you know he's proving people wrong that there's a set template for every format."
At the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua, it was Ishant Sharma that sparkled in the first innings as Bumrah was working off his rust and stiffness.
After a demanding tour of Australia, and return limited overs series, followed by IPL and the World Cup in England, India's strike bowler was given a month off.
Bumrah was trying to find his rhythm and the ideal lengths to bowl on the Caribbean wicket on which Kemar Roach had troubled India in the first innings. A nondescript return of 18-4-55-1 was nothing to write home about (except that he became the quickest Indian to 50 wickets) but it was the calm before the storm. A breathtaking spell of outswing bowling (8-4-7-5) smashed the West Indian side to smithereens in the second innings. An innocent outside edge off Kraigg Brathwaite was followed by demolition of four different batsmen's stumps, the best of the dismissals saved for Jason Holder. Starting on middle stump, the ball drew Holder's bat like a magnet towards it, before pitching and curving out to rip the off stump out of the ground.
The warmed-up "V8 Engine" stayed hot in Sabina Park and utilized the breeze blowing from his left to right and employed the inswinger to devastating effect, taking his personal Test best of 6/27 (bettering the 6/33 set in Melbourne). And a hat-trick along the way to become only the third Indian bowler to the feat in Tests.
In the second innings, he would only take one wicket - that of Jermaine Blackwood - to break a partnership that had quickly built to become the highest of the series for West Indies. It would be informative to recognize that while Ishant and Shami were generating edges off the bat and thus looked to be threatening to take wickets, Bumrah kept beating the bat.
Bumrah had been deadly with back-of-length deliveries and on two pitches that provided bounce for him, he could have easily stuck to that length. Bumrah had quickly assessed the assistance available to him and identified the lengths to bowl: "In bouncy wickets, you can get greedy and look to bowl short. You should not do that. You need to bowl in good areas, create pressure and try and bowl full."
There were outswingers in one innings and inswingers in another, both equally devastating. There were sharp bouncers to let the batsmen know it would be unwise to think of coming on the front foot. Darren Bravo didn't mean to get on the front foot but the difficulty of picking Bumrah's release - and hence the length - meant the Trinidadian was caught in an awkward position and the neck stem guard went flying.
Thirteen wickets in two Tests at an average of 9.23 and taking a wicket almost every 23 deliveries has now placed Bumrah as the third ranked bowler in ICC's Test rankings.
It was to be the last delivery before lunch on Day three and India had removed three top-order batsmen in the session. India were even in the series against hosts Australia with one more Test to come.
Having troubled and dismissed batsmen earlier in the day with quick short and good length deliveries at speeds in excess of 140 kmph, Bumrah came around the wicket to the left handed Shaun Marsh at the crease and delivered a slower one, on yorker length, at 113 kmph. By the time the batsman picked it, his hands had taken the bat well ahead of him. The dipping delivery struck the pads plumb in front of middle stump, and sent him packing. And eventually, Australia went go on to lose the Boxing Day Test at MCG. Bumrah finished with match figures of 9/86 that included a moment of genius. Rohit Sharma got the credit for the idea, but Bumrah took home all the accolades for the accurate execution.
"I have always wanted to play Test cricket for India and I am living the dream" said Bumrah after his series turning haul at Melbourne. After the series in the Caribbean, he opined on his Test career so far. "It's been just  matches. It has just started. There is a lot more to learn and a lot more effort to be put in to get better...I haven't played in India [yet] and there's a lot more I have to experience... The start was good, now I will try to learn more in terms of how to get better."
Bumrah is currently at the peak of his powers but there is a lesson to be learned from the workload that has had its effect on another young fast bowler who lit up the cricket world - Kagiso Rabada. The South African speedster turned 24 only a few months ago and had already delivered 11,094 deliveries in international cricket. The non-stop cricket he was involved in the lead up to the 2019 World Cup explained to an extent his ineffectiveness in the tournament.
The soon-to-be 26 years old Bumrah has sent down 6639 deliveries so far. South Africa has a fast bowling pedigree and Rabada is only the most recent great fast bowler to play for the Proteas after Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini and Steyn, and that's just since 1992. India cannot afford Bumrah to be run into the ground.