The fast and the curious

In 2015, MS Dhoni was bowled by a spiky-haired kid from Gujarat. One writer was lucky to have witnessed the start of something extraordinary

Shashank Kishore  |  

Shashank Kishore

There's a lot that makes a great picture: lighting, composition, lines, framing. This one has none of those. What it does have in its grainy commotion is an undocumented moment I was lucky to witness.

The setting is the 2015-16 Vijay Hazare Trophy in nondescript Alur, on Bengaluru's outskirts. Gujarat were playing Jharkhand in a league fixture of the Indian domestic 50-over competition, and the crowd was heaving in anticipation of an MS Dhoni special.

For over two hours their hero wasn't to be seen, and when he finally arrived at the crease, he was subdued by a clean-shaven, spiky-haired 22-year-old.

Jasprit Bumrah took out an advancing Dhoni's middle stump with a pinpoint yorker at the death. Even as his team-mates ran up to ruffle his hair, the bowler seemed embarrassed to celebrate - Bumrah the world beater was still a couple of years away.

The dressing rooms at Alur, where the three grounds are all in one complex, are in the centre of the venue. With three matches on simultaneously, six teams were huddled together in a cramped space, separated by thin walls. It wasn't just the crowd who wanted a slice of Dhoni - the players were as excited. The Jharkhand team manager spent the evening collecting and ferrying caps, T-shirts, and pieces of paper on which players had written their names for Dhoni to sign personalised notes on.

As the teams were about to pack up at the end of the day, Parthiv Patel, the Gujarat captain, got a message through to the Jharkhand dressing room, requesting Dhoni's autograph for the young fast bowler who got him out. The match ball was then handed over to the liaison officer outside the Jharkhand dressing room.

Within five minutes Parthiv received a note - Dhoni was asking to meet the young bowler. As word spread in the dressing room, the entire Gujarat camp, and players from a few other teams, ran to the door of the Jharkhand dressing room, where Dhoni stood, the match ball in hand.

All the tongue-tied Bumrah could do was smile as Dhoni signed the ball, saying a quiet "well-bowled", which had everyone present there breaking into applause.

Two months later Bumrah would make his ODI debut under Dhoni in Sydney. And within a year he would go from tongue-tied ingenue to a bowler teams had learned to fear, while maintaining his ever-smiling demeanour.

There is no recorded evidence of the Bumrah toe-crusher from that day in Alur, but in my head, that delivery and its aftermath play like an Instagram reel on loop as the moment that marked the real coming of Jasprit "Boom" Bumrah.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo