On Wednesday, when Rajasthan Royals’ opener Jos Buttler deposited Delhi Capitals’ Anrich Nortje’s first ball for a six over long-on, the commentators and cricket fans watching went into a collective tizzy. Reason? It was a 148 kmph rocket that Buttler had calmly dealt with; a reiteration of modern batsmen’s fearless class that is unperturbed by extreme pace.
Two consecutive lap shots for fours followed, each off deliveries in excess of 155 kmph. One of those, the commentators discussed, was the fastest ball ever bowled in the Indian Premier League. Another 155 kmph thunderbolt arrived, but this was a slightly back of a length ball, straight and moving in. Buttler was beaten for pace and the ball crashed into his stumps. The erudite Mark Nicholas on air recalled the legendary punishment of pace that Michael Holding dished out of England’s Brian Close at Old Trafford in 1976.
— ICC (@ICC) October 15, 2020
Pace, they say, can’t be coached. Getting into a side-on or front-on position can be taught, as can a good follow-through, but raw pace has its genesis in the fast-twitch muscle fibres that one is born with. Being quick through the air takes the unresponsive or the slow pitch out of the equation. There is an obvious science behind hurling the 5.75-ounce object at close to 100 miles an hour, but it is the imperious primitivism of the act that creates a lasting impression.
Delhi Capitals’ bowling coach Ryan Harris is understandably a happy man. His team occupies the second position on the points table – they were table toppers until Mumbai Indians thumped Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday. Four of his bowlers are among the top-20 wicket-takers at IPL 2020; two of them feature in top -10; one of them, Kagiso Rabada, occupies the top spot with 18 wickets from eight matches.
Harris joined the Delhi party only two months back and hence had no role in selecting a pace-heavy squad, but he does remember head coach Ricky Ponting particularly kicked about the fast men they have at their disposal.
“When I joined the group, I remember Ponting telling me that we have some very good young fast bowlers to work with. He had obviously done his research. We have got a bowling group where, if someone misses out due to injury or form, there is someone ready to step in. I would believe a lot of planning went into the auction,” the former Australian seamer told Firstpost from Sharjah where DC will play Chennai Super Kings on Saturday.
“We are very excited with what our pacers have done. I can’t remember a game where they haven’t delivered. Rabada is the leading wicket-taker, and everyone is obviously talking about Nortje’s serious pace. We lost Ishant Sharma, which is a great loss, but we have quite a few Indian bowlers in the reserves too. We saw what Tushar is capable of. Then, there’s Avesh Khan and Mohit Sharma too. So far so good for us and I hope it continues,” he added.
With six wins from eight matches, DC are in fine form and their South African fast bowling duo of Rabada and Nortje have been at the forefront of their dominant run. While Rabada had a successful 2019 with DC, Nortje was part of Kolkata Knight Riders last year but a shoulder injury put paid to his chances of an IPL debut.
This year, DC signed the 26-year-old as a replacement for Chris Woakes, and it has turned out to be an inspired signing.
The Rabada-Nortje pair has accounted for 28 batsmen across eight matches, making them the most successful fast bowling pair of this year’s IPL so far. Mumbai Indians' Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult are next with 24 wickets, while Bumrah–James Pattinson and Boult-Pattinson combos have resulted in 21 wickets each. The fact that Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals have interchangeably occupied the top two slots comes as little surprise, given the pace riches both teams are blessed with.
Harris credits the South African duo's success to a great understanding of its craft and the ability to stick to bowling plans.
“They are pretty good blokes; pretty good characters. They know what they are doing, which is great because that makes my job a lot easier. They do come to me when they need any help, but their planning generally is very good. They know each other pretty well too which helps,” the 41-year-old said.
Harris, for obvious reasons, didn’t divulge details of the bowling plans he referred to, but said that for Nortje, pace is a natural byproduct of bowling.
“Each individual has a role. Nortje’s role is slightly different from KG (Rabada), KG’s role is different from Harshal Patel. Likewise, Avesh has a different role. Each of our fast bowlers is different in some way or the other, and each has a specific role to perform.
“Having said that, we don’t have to tell our bowlers to bowl fast, they just do. You don’t have to tell someone like Nortje to bowl fast; he simply does. He likes to run in and let it rip, which is what he is doing and getting noticed for. Everywhere around the world, if someone is bowling that quick, he will be noticed. Each of them has a plan on how to go about their bowling, but we don’t ask him or others to bowl at 160 kmph; we know he’ll do that naturally. We are very lucky to have him as well as KG and some great Indian talent in Tushar Deshpande and Avesh.”
While Avesh’s only game of this year’s IPL was a disappointment (figures of 4-0-42-0 in a 44-run win over CSK), Tushar turned heads with his perfect last over against Rajasthan Royals. The 25-year-old from Mumbai nailed a series of yorkers to defend 22 runs against Rahul Tewatia and Shreyas Gopal in the final over of the match, earning rich praise from his idol Dale Steyn and commentator Ian Bishop.
Nothing better than meeting people who are enthusiastic and excited about becoming better players.
Tushar is all that and more!
I wish nothing but greatness for you my friend https://t.co/sSXMtvP3D7
— Dale Steyn (@DaleSteyn62) October 7, 2020
Calling him a “yorker genius,” Harris revealed that Tushar has been bowling a lot of yorkers in the nets and it was a simple matter of putting his training to practice against Royals. DC, the coach said, would like to use his expertise a lot more in the death overs.
“Tushar is a really good bowler. I love his attitude. He is someone who would always come to me or Shreyas or Ponting and ask when is he playing. He was always keen to get a game. We’d like to use him a bit more in the death and back end of the innings. He is a yorker genius. He bowls a lot of yorkers, something that Shreyas is also aware of because they play together in domestic cricket. I am very impressed with the way he bowled that last over in his debut match. But no surprises given the way he has been training. My message to him was simple, just do whatever you do in training,” Harris said.
Congrats to @DelhiCapitals again. They are a formidable team. That was some of the most exciting fast bowling on show in one game. Nortje, Archer, Rabada and don’t forget Tushar Deshpande were brilliant. Oh and Ravi Ashwin to very good.
— Ian bishop (@irbishi) October 14, 2020
A potent delivery to score off, yorkers, after being shunned by bowlers in the initial part of the IPL, have made a roaring comeback over the past few matches. It took Sunrisers Hyderabad’s unheralded left-arm pacer T Natrajan, ironically against Delhi Capitals, to prove that the old-fashioned block hole, if peppered right, can still test the biggest hitters. Since then, bowlers across teams have warmed up to yorkers all over again, something that chuffs Harris no end.
“I am an old-fashioned bowler who, as a kid, liked to watch yorkers being bowled. So, I am absolutely happy to see modern pacers bowling yorkers. What makes it such a difficult delivery is that it is a very hard ball to get away. I have been following T20 cricket for a number of years now and the Yorker had suddenly disappeared for a few years all across the world.
“As a fast bowler myself, it is great to see bowlers reverting to it. Obviously, the batsmen these days are very capable and they play lap shots a lot, but I still feel that a good yorker is a good yorker. It’s a ball that, if you bowl it well, is very difficult to score off. At most, it will yield only two runs. Yeah, maybe an inside or and outside edge can result in a boundary, but it is a potent ball. We make sure that our fast bowlers practice yorkers well, and the results are showing,” he signed off.
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