How Bumrah’s advice helped Akash Deep


India’s debutant fast bowler Akash Deep had his hand on his head when the no-ball siren went off during the fourth over of the day in Ranchi. He had just sent Zak Crawley’s off stump cartwheeling with a nip-backer for what would have been his first Test wicket, but the replay showed he had overstepped.

“I felt very bad,” Akash, 27, told the host broadcaster after the first day’s play. “Not because it would have been my first international wicket but because they were playing really well after that. When they were scoring freely, I was feeling bad that the team might suffer because of me.”

Crawley was on 4 when he got the reprieve. Soon after, he smashed Mohammed Siraj for three successive fours followed by a six.

It was Akash who eventually broke the opening stand when he had Ben Duckett caught behind in the tenth over. Two balls later, he trapped Ollie Pope for a duck to make it 47 for 2. In his next over, Akash once again hit the top of Crawley’s off stump, this time with a legal delivery. At the end of his seven-over spell, he had taken 3 for 24 to put India on top.

“No, there was no nervousness because a lot of things had already been discussed, with our coaches, Rohit bhai,” he said. “And I have been playing cricket for some time now, so it did not feel anything new. I was just trying to follow my process.”

He also benefited from listening to Jasprit Bumrah, who told him to bowl a touch shorter than he does in domestic cricket. According to ESPNcricinfo’s logs, two of his wickets came via short-of-length deliveries and one via good length.

“In domestic cricket, our length is a couple of feet fuller,” he said. “Here, our coaches, captain and Bumrah bhai told me that at international level, the length is a touch shorter because batsmen look to chase the ball here. So my plan was to just bowl at my line and length.”

Akash’s father Ramji Singh, a physical education teacher in a government school, never wanted him to become a cricketer. He was paralysed after retirement and was bedridden for five years before breathing his last in February 2015. In October same year, Akash’s older brother Dhiraj died on his way to a hospital in Varanasi following a brief illness.

“His father always wished for him to become a government officer, but cricket was his true passion,” Akash’s mother Laduma Devi told PTI. “I would secretly send him to play cricket and help him pursue his dream.

“During that time, if someone heard that he was playing cricket, they would say, ‘Yeh to awara mawwali hi banega [he is spoilt and will become a rogue]. But we had faith in him and didn’t let him give up despite losing my malik [husband] and beta [older son] within six months [in 2015].”

Akash made his first-class debut in December 2019 and has 104 wickets in 30 matches at an average of 23.58. Talking about his journey, he said: “I don’t know what all I did [in domestic cricket] but whatever match I played, I played as if it was the last match of my life. Whatever worked for me, I would just try to repeat that in every match.”

After his first spell on Friday, he bowled another ten overs but could not take a wicket with the older ball. “There was some help early on but after that the pitch dried out and the ball also became softer,” he said. “I think as a bowling unit we should focus on our line and length, keep things tight, and let batters take chances.”

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