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India in England! Rocking!

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Of all the roles James Anderson has donned for his country in his glorious career—swing and seam virtuoso, leader, mentor, slips-man and lower-order entertainer—it’s that of a provocateur that has been in the focus for the best part of this series. With the hooping ball, he has tormented the best of India’s batsmen this century, from Sachin Tendulkar to Virat Kohli, and as if this was not enough, he had instigated flare-ups — with fiery characters, no less, like Ravindra Jadeja and Virat Kohli — that have gone onto fire up contests. India-England encounters have seldom matched the vitriol levels of their duels with Australia. But Anderson’s altercations with Kohli and Bumrah could infuse a skittish, brazen edge to what has historically been an incident-free fixture. It began with the involvement of generally the least confrontational of characters–the ever-smiling Jasprit Bumrah at the backend of the third day. In a 10-ball over, thanks to four no-balls, Bumrah went ballistic to soften up England’s No. 11 batsmen. By the end of it, Anderson was visibly shaken.

The first ball was a bouncer that blasted onto Anderson’s face, which the latter tried to fend but the helmet took a dent. Rib-music followed and the ball hit the target. The third ball, too, was aimed at Anderson’s ribs and somehow the batsman managed to get a slice of wood on it. Then, after bowling a searing yorker, Bumrah yet again went back to the short-ball mode. It riled Anderson.

It was not the first time Anderson had copped such treatment–Mitchell Johnson had famously done that in the 2013-14 series, not just at Anderson but the entire lower order. In the same series, he had expressed his discontent at the tactic and had even complained to the umpire in vain. “I don’t know what constitutes dangerous bowling. It’s the umpire’s personal take on it,

Unlike Johnson, though, Bumrah is one of the quietest players in the Indian team and from that perspective, his duel with Anderson came out of the blue. Then again, he was just following his captain’s command. At the end of England’s innings, Bumrah approached Anderson and patted him on the back. But he was unimpressed and mouthed a few words to the Indian quick. 

The senior off-spinner was surprised at Anderson’s reaction. “What was surprising to me was that kind of question. I agree, maybe he was shaken. Getting hit on the helmet is definitely not easy and I empathise with him, but still, that kind of a statement coming from Jimmy was a surprise to me. In an attritional Test match, Kohli showed tactical nous to target the opponents’ biggest match-winner and succeeded spectacularly. Not only was Anderson shaken, his captain Joe Root, who had exposed the No. 11 to a short-ball barrage, took the assault personally and lost it tactically when Bumrah walked out to bat during India’s second innings.

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