Morne Morkel bowled two immaculate yorkers to clean up Kallis and Tiwary in two consecutive deliveries. Dale Steyn’s pace was a bit too much to handle for the dangerous Richard Levi. Lasith Malinga made Manish Pandey dance to his tunes before ending his misery.
If you missed seeing these dismissals and were told that all this happened in South Africa in Test match cricket, you would have readily believed. Fortunately though, all this and more has happened in this year’s IPL and for me, that’s been the highlight of the tournament.
Fast bowlers are not only making their presence felt but also winning matches on their own.
Is this a new trend?
T20 cricket, especially in the subcontinent, is considered to be a batsman’s game. The matches are played on flat pitches and grounds are relatively smaller. Hence bowlers are expected to play only a supporting act. The lead actors are always the ones with the willow in their hand, or so it is believed.
But whatever we have seen so far in IPL-V reiterates the fact that even though the format is condensed; the skills continue to be non-negotiable. If a bowler of Steyn or Morkel’s quality is bowling, you need special skills to put him away. T20 may be a shortened game and gives you the license to hit but the reaction time for a batsman remains the same.
Fast bowlers have realized that there aren’t too many batsmen around who can comfortably hook a well-directed bouncer and hence we see a fair sprinkling of short-pitched stuff in IPL-V. If they find pace and good bounce like Steyn had in Vizag against Mumbai, they stick to the conventional bouncers aimed at the batsman’s head. But if they realize that bounce and pace off the surface isn’t their ally, they resort to bowling different variations of the same delivery, which are the slower bouncers and bouncers directed outside the off-stump etc.
One may wonder that if the bowlers are the same, how come they weren’t as effective in the first few years? Well, though these bowlers’ skill-set hasn’t changed much, the mindset has. Initially they thought that bowling in good areas, like they operated in other formats, would do the job in T20 too. But as the time passed, they realized that the good lengths in Tests and ODIs fall in the hitting zone in a T20 game.
In fact, there are only three kinds of deliveries that work in the shortest version— yorkers, bouncers and short-of-good-length-effort-ball. Finding the block hole with a new ball is fairly difficult and therefore, it was avoided earlier, but not anymore. Bowlers have mastered the art of bowling yorkers even with the new ball. Don’t they say that necessity is the mother of all inventions?
The short-of-good-length ball is the effort ball that hits the bat towards the splice. On Indian pitches, most batsmen have the tendency of coming onto the front-foot and hence it’s imperative to ensure that the ball bounces a bit more than expected or else it’s far too easy to be clobbered.
Bowlers are having a bigger say in this edition of the IPL and that’s a healthy sign for the game. Cricket is revered the most when there’s a contest; six-hitting fests aren’t entertaining anymore.