As World Cup debuts go, Jasprit Bumrah could hardly have asked for any better.
South Africa’s dangermen Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla were removed within his first three overs, yet the Indian seamer was just relieved to help his country open up with a six-wicket win.
India were the final team to get underway at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 but they ensured the wait was worth it at the Hampshire Bowl.
Bumrah’s final figures of 2/35 – the most economical ten-over spell in this year’s tournament to date – were a key cog in restricting the Proteas to 227/9 before Rohit Sharma’s gritty unbeaten 122 off 144 balls anchored the potentially tricky chase on a seaming, bouncing pitch.
Bumrah was more than happy to take advantage of the helpful conditions with ball in hand and the 25-year-old took great pains to ensure the magnitude of the occasion didn’t adversely affect him.
“I wasn’t thinking about this being my first World Cup game, I was thinking of it as just another game of cricket,” said the paceman. “I tried to focus on what I always do.
“It was nice to have little bit of help [from the pitch]. When you have some help, don’t try to do too much. Just bowl good hard lengths, that was the plan and I tried to stick to it.
“We were just thinking about what our strengths are and what we could do as a bowling unit. The pitch offered a little help, so we were trying to use that to our advantage.
“You always want to start well in a big tournament like this. When you do, it’s a positive for the team and you don’t have to play catch-up.
“If start is slow, you are always catching up, but we prepared well and it’s very satisfying to start with a win.
“Rohit also played very well, he anchored the innings throughout. On not the easiest wicket, he played for 45 overs, so that’s a very good sign for us. We’ll gain so much confidence in the first game.”
The fact Bumrah was making his World Cup debut just goes to highlight his rapid rise to the bowling elite.
Since making his ODI debut against Australia in January 2016, nobody has taken more wickets at the death than his 44, while he is officially the world’s top-ranked ODI bowler.
And he credits his willingness to constantly adapt as a key reason behind his ascent.
“You can learn from any bowler in the world,” he added. “Whether that’s a first-class game or an international.
“I always keep an eye on what is happening all over, so that maybe I can learn and add things to my armoury. There’s no harm in learning.
“For example, if you tell me there’s a perfect action in the world, I’ll try to copy that. Every fast bowler faces injury issues so I just maintain what I have and try to make my body strong.”