When Pat Cummins was ruled out of the Indian Premier League (IPL) last year for the Mumbai Indians, it was learned that one of the candidates the franchise discussed as a replacement was Jhye Richardson. On Saturday night, Mumbai Indians skipper, Rohit Sharma witnessed from close quarters the phenomenal talent that Richardson poses. Richardson picked up career-best figures of 4-26 as Australia registered a morale-boosting victory in the first ODI in Sydney.
Richardson belongs to a rare breed, he is not very tall, his shoulders aren't broad like a vintage Australian fast bowler and he doesn't rely on getting extra lift off the hard Australian surfaces. Instead, he bustles in and gets the ball to skid off the surface. Importantly, he can still generate pace in excess of 140 Km/hr and deceive the batsmen with the speed he gathers off the pitch.
It was Richarson's ability to skid the ball that gave Australians a dream start. He snared the wickets of Virat Kohli and Ambati Rayudu in his first nine balls of the match. The Kohli dismissal was the perfect example of Richardson's ability to mislead the batsmen with his quickness. The ball was on middle stump and on most occasions Kohli would have clipped it firmly in front of square, but the ball had reached him a fraction earlier than he expected. It meant that by the time Kohli turned his wrists on it, instead of the ball flying through mid-wicket, it went straight into the hands of square leg. Rayudu was much the same. The ball pitch was angled in from the line of off-stump, but the pace of it deceived the India number four as he couldn't even get his bat down quick enough and avoid the ball trapping him in front.
Apart from his velocity, it is also Richardson's well disguised slower deliveries that are difficult to handle. With the required-rate touching nine an over for India, he smartly mixed his faster balls with the slower off-breaks. Dinesh Karthik struggled to time the ball and eventually perished by attempting a wild slog.
Richardson was ecstatic after each dismissal and rightly so. Six months ago, he was part of the Australian bowling unit that had been annihilated by the English batting in a 5-0 whitewash. Richardson had returned from the tour with best bowling figures of 3-92 and could easily have been demoralised by the treatment. But the 22-year-old returned home to Perth and started the domestic season in red hot form. So the minute, the selectors decided to rest the leading pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, the wiry quick from Western Australia was the first to be picked.
The slow natured surface at the SCG suited Richardson's stump-to-stump line of bowling and hence the Australian team management picked him over lanky paceman Billy Stanlake. Richardson's opening burst of 4-2-6-2 had set the game up for Australia and it was rather appropriate that he returned later to cease the tourists' lower order.
"A lot of people have told me that I wasn't going to be a fast bowler that is the reality. We saw a lot of big, strong, tall fast bowlers. I've like to think myself as no better or worse, I think on wickets that are not bouncing or skidding a little more and I probably offer something different" Richardson told reporters after the match.
Richardson's next goal is to be picked for the Australian World Cup squad in May. If he continues to produce the spells he produced in Sydney and ends up picking up a few more wickets, he is bound to put the pressure on the likes of Cummins, Hazlewood, and Starc. For now, however, he is just delighted to pick up his first Man-of-the-Match award.
Rohit Sharma, who carved out yet another hundred in Australia also praised the young quick after his scintillating knock.
"He looks a very great prospect for Australian cricket. He's got great variation as well. Towards the end, we got an opportunity to see that as well when he was bowling those slower balls. When you have those sort of skills, the job of the captain becomes a lot easier and a captain can rely on someone like that, who can come and bowl in the end and upfront with the new ball to take the ball away from the right-hander. He bowled pretty well with the new ball and also very well with the old ball," said Rohit.
Perhaps next time the IPL auction rolls around Richardson might just attract a few bids especially if he can continue to torment the Indian batsmen as he did in Sydney.