It’s the final of the Champions Trophy 2017. Fourth over of the Pakistan innings. The over starts with Pakistan at seven for no loss, then eight for no loss as Jasprit Bumrah sends down a leg-side wide. Next ball is on length, slanting away from Fakhar Zaman. It’s quick and bounces nicely, and Zaman’s flirty swish gets the edge Bumrah wants, and carries nicely to MS Dhoni behind the stumps. Out! Nope. A quick double-check later, Zaman is called back to the crease. No-ball, Mr Bumrah. You’ll have to try again. Oh, and you may not want to look at Virat Kohli’s face while you’re at it.
Bumrah kept at it, as did all the other Indian bowlers, but it took another 30 overs to dislodge Zaman. By then, he had slammed 114 runs from 106 balls, and, as it turned out, taken the game well beyond India’s reach.
The advertisement came out soon after.
A profile view of Bumrah at his delivery stride, his foot freeze-framed just past the line, the boot circled to draw attention to; elsewhere in the large poster, a picture of two cars stationed perfectly behind the white line at a traffic signal, and the words: DON’T CROSS THE LINE, YOU KNOW IT CAN BE COSTLY.
Nice, I thought. Unusual for Indian government-type billboards to be this funny. But this was great, Amul-level great. It was (a) responding to something topical, and (b) it made sense and was funny. Clever funny, snigger-snigger funny.
Poor Bumrah. There are no-balls and there are no-balls. Approximately four hours later, Azhar Ali no-catched Virat Kohli off Mohammad Amir. Another day, Kohli might have done to Azhar (and Amir and Pakistan) what Zaman did to India. On the day, Kohli was out next ball. There are misses and there are misses. Luck of the draw. Rub of the green. It goes one way now and then the other.
Back to the ad then – a bit cruel on young Bumrah, who, really, is much, much better than the ball-that-wasn’t. On the whole, it was a gentle dig and genuinely funny.
Bumrah didn’t think so.
He tweeted out his response to the Jaipur Police ad with: “well done Jaipur traffic police this shows how much respect you get after giving your best for the country.”
And, a while later, “But don’t worry I won’t make fun of the mistakes which you guys make at your work. Because I believe humans can make mistakes”
Bumrah was clearly hurting, and it showed.
Guessing from the outside, I’d assume the dressing room wasn’t the happiest place anyway. Who could blame Bumrah for being a tad touchy?
Then Twitter took off.
There were the ones, also hurting at India losing to Pakistan, who took a dim view of Bumrah’s response.
“Is the overstepping, that cost India a match, a Championship & years of humiliation at enemy’s hand, your best?” asked someone. The nationalist overload, basically.
And the funny ones: “bhai we love you but next time se 90% hi dena … 100% mein zara aage chale gaye aap”.
Righteous and outraged, like “Yeh shame on cops standing in heat and pollution all around even on holidays for us. Cricketers sacrifice more.” And “1. Develop a sense of humour 2. Don’t play victim. Even traffic police give their best for India. Being a cricketer doesn’t make you special.”
Bumrah had his backers: “We all make mistakes. Not cool to make a public display of someone else’s mistakes,” someone said. The comeback to that was quick: “Entire India watched the match.. aur kitna public display hoga?”
Was the advertisement really disrespectful, though? To my mind, it was a good way to deal with a loss to the traditional cricketing rivals. I still remember that Australasia Cup final from 1986, when Javed Miandad smashed Chetan Sharma for a last-ball six off a thigh-high full-toss to win Pakistan the game. I remember the garlands of old and torn shoes around poor Chetan’s posters and all the slogan shouting. And that’s not even the worst we have done when reacting to what is only a defeat in a cricket match. Yes, that’s what it is – only a defeat in a cricket match.
Humour – what’s a better way to deal with disappointments?
Ben Johnson’s humour with those Sportsbet ads come to mind. You know the one I am talking about; in the ad for the company’s betting app, Johnson says that the phone/app has “tested positive for speed and power, again and again”. There was also the other one for Cheetah Power Surge, the energy drink, where he mouthed, “I Cheetah all the time!” It is another matter that he has nothing to lose, his career is long over. Bumrah – still young and, hopefully, with a long and glorious career in front of him – does.
Of course, Johnson, given a chance, still talks about being victimised. “I was nailed on a cross, and 25 years later I’m still being punished,” he told The Telegraph in a September 2013 interview. It still hurts, even all these years later. At least he gets to laugh about it.
Is it to do with time? Will Bumrah come to see the lighter side of his seemingly minor error some day?
More importantly, will he learn from it and work towards cutting out those no-balls? He has a bit of a history with those and, at 23-and-some, has the time to sort the problem out. I’m sure he doesn’t like bowling them. But if he wanted a trigger to work on it, Jaipur Police might have provided him with one.
Meanwhile, he may as well learn to take a joke. And, being a top-drawer Indian cricketer, develop slightly thicker skin.
Actually, there is this excellent spot of advice one Vishwajeet Patil sent his way on Twitter: “Take it sportly …they make u popular … believe one day your bouncers make advertisement of helmet for safety ..” Bang on, that one.