They say cricket is an ultimate reflection of life. It gives you an unprecedented high but at the same time, it also shows you the mirror every time you encounter a roadblock.
Being a public figure in India, especially a high-profile cricketer, has unimaginable perks but the downside is also very brutal. During your peak, people raise you to mythical heights. The same people also scrutinize, and judge the hell out of you during your lean patch.
During the last 12 months, no other public figure has experienced the downside more than champion Indian pacer Jasprit Bumrah.
Hailed as a "national treasure" by Indians not too long ago for his outrageous, multi-dimensional skills, Bumrah saw a majority of the same people turn on him last year after he was ruled out of the T20 World Cup due to a recurring back injury.
As India kept losing 1 important game after another, Bumrah kept trending on social media, even though he had played no part in those defeats.
To be fair, his absence indeed played a huge role in the defeats to England at the T20 World Cup semi-final and the WTC 2023 final, and at one level, one can understand the frustration of Indian fans.
It was also a damning reflection of how far and above Bumrah is in terms of skill level from his fellow teammates.
So, when Jasprit was named in the Indian squad for Ireland T20Is, there was a sense of never-seen euphoria among fans.
I say, 'never-seen' because India has always been a batsmen-loving country. The biggest hype is always reserved for the likes of Kohli, Sachin, Dhoni, Rohit, etc. But, then, this country has also never seen a fast bowler like Bumrah.
He is unique, and indeed a trendsetter.
So, even though the T20I series lacked context, fans waited with bated breath to see him finally back in action.
And, it is fair to say that Jasprit did not disappoint.
Jasprit Bumrah rewinds the clock to the good old days
Bumrah was out of action for nearly a year due to a recurring back injury and post-surgery rehabilitation, but it did not look that way when he bowled his first over in international cricket after a gap of 329 days on August 18, 2023.
He got the ball to talk almost immediately and ended up breaching the gap between the bat and pad of Irish opener Andrew Balbirnie.
The ball thudded into the stumps, and the roof immediately went down at the packed stadium in Dublin. It was a typical Bumrah dismissal, where the ball angled wickedly into the right-hander to breach his defense. And, suddenly the world felt normal.
Bumrah, by his admission, had been preparing for a long haul during his downtime, as he had the World Cup in mind. So, he ensured that he delivered as many balls as he could by featuring in local tournaments.
And, it was quite evident during the 1st T20I as he never gave any hint of being rusty. He gradually cranked up his pace towards 140 km/h, but most importantly, it was his control that was pretty satisfying to see.
He got the ball to do exactly what he wanted most of the time, often bamboozling the batsmen with clever change of pace, especially at the death.
What separates Jasprit from the rest is that he is a multidimensional bowler, who can bowl in every phase of a match. And, this aspect was on full display during the death overs of both games.
While every other bowler was getting smashed around the park, here was Bumrah outthinking the batsmen with his clever change of pace and searing yorkers.
He conceded just 19 runs in 4 overs at the death and accounted for 3 wickets. The unorthodox pacer also delivered a maiden in the 20th over during the 2nd T20I.
Bumrah was eventually awarded the "Player of the Series" award for his brilliant display- 2/24 (4) & 2/15 (4)- across both matches.
So, what changes has Jasprit Bumrah made to his bowling?
It was evident during the two T20Is that Bumrah has lengthened his run-up.
Earlier, he used to take 7-8 steps before unleashing his thunderbolts. This resulted in him exerting a lot of pressure on his shoulders and back.
Here's what an NCA Level-III accredited coach told PTI
"Boom was earlier like a fighter jet. Even a shorter run-up after a few rapid walking strides meant that the entire pace that he generated came from the thrust provided by his shoulder and back. The injury was bound to happen because his run-up hardly gave him any momentum," he told PTI.
Bumrah has now added a few steps to his run-up to stay injury-free. And, as the Irish batsmen found out last week, his thunderbolts seem to have a renewed venom.
Having been locked up in cotton wool for nearly a year, they are ready to be unleashed in front of the whole world, which, as always, is waiting with bated breath to be "WOWed" again. It always is.