Bumrah, easily one of world’s premier fast bowlers in contemporary cricket, missed the T20 World Cup due to a stress fracture on his back. It might keep him away for months.
Thomson, who himself hurled 95mph thunderbolts with an awkward slinging action in the ’70s and ’80s, wants Bumrah to decide which of the three formats he would like to let go.
“Bumrah puts too much weight on his body and because he plays all formats, he is bound to get injured. It is now upon him to decide what he wants to do,” Thomson told PTI during an interaction.
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Call it being politically correct, no player worth his salt would ever say that he wouldn’t play Test cricket and opt for shorter versions.
“The crowd wants him to play white ball cricket and comes 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 needs to bowl 15 overs in a day. You can well understand which formats he needs 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 pencilled in the FTP for the next seven years, the pace ace wants Bumrah to weigh in all practical possibilities.
“In a player’s career, it is only a decade that you can bowl at the top. So more than emotion, it is about what works for you. What makes your career work better and what helps you serve your country for longer,” said Thomson, who took 200 Tests wickets in 51 games.
But does that mean that Bumrah has to opt for white ball formats because that is more popularity in today’s time and age.
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“It is about what the crowd wants and what he wants. If people love to see him bowl for India in white ball cricket and he can help India win World Cups, why should he give up on white ball for other formats?
“That he can’t play all formats is evident to everyone because of the number of times he is getting injured.”
But obviously, it is 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 carry on to serve India for longer. This is a reasoned call and not an emotional call.”
For someone, whose javelin thrower like arch and ability to dislocate batters’ toes with fiery yorkers (he called them ‘sand shoe crushers’) back in the day had no hesitation in admitting that overall fast bowling standards have declined.
“I tend to agree with you on this. I will give you an example. We all know the yorker is the best ball to bowl at the end of an innings. Have you seen a single fast bowler bowl yorkers consistently?,” he asked.
“Why can’t they bowl 4-5 yorkers in an over? Why is it that a yorker is followed by a half volley or an easy ball to hit. That’s why I say it is about bowling the right areas or lengths.
“Unless you have that consistency, the standard of bowling will inevitably decline,” said the former pacer, who once had taken 33 wickets in a single Ashes series.
While Thomson’s bowling was very muscular, all-pace or nothing stuff, he believes that nowadays – one virtue – pace, swing or seam can’t let you sustain for long time in international cricket.
Above everything else comes the mindset and that can be the trump card in elite sport.
“Suppose you are bowling to a very good batter like Virat Kohli. You need to believe you can get him out. If you don’t believe that you can get his wicket, no amount of pace or swing can help you.”
A fast bowler also needs to carry that attitude and aggression in his game which can intimidate opposition.
“As a fast bowler, you should also have the attitude of one and that’s key to success.”
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BUT PACE ALONE CAN’T BRING SUCCESS
“It is not just about one thing. You can have all the pace in the world but if you don’t know how to bowl the right areas, you will get nowhere. “Again, you can move the ball but if you don’t have the understanding what’s the right length to bowl, swing won’t help you. Add your mindset to it.”
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 hunted in pairs.
Does it help if pacers strike a good partnership just like batters.
“Absolutely it does. Because the pressure that is built from both ends helps immensely. If the pressure is released from one end, automatically the bowling unit will have a problem. So, if you hunt in pairs, it makes a huge difference for the team,” he concluded.