Sunday, June 5, 2011

T20 Cricket - Where are the Yorkers?

One of the biggest things that Chris Gayle taught everyone in IPL4 is that you don't need great repertoire, express pace, massive swing, big turn and even larger reputations to be a good T20 bowler. All you need to do is be able to bowl a good yorker, right in the blockhole for as many balls as you can. This is the bowler who gave 6 or 7 runs (including a last ball six in the last over of the IPL4 final). What I cannot understand is this - can't the other guys bowl yorkers?

My question becomes all the more pertinent when you see the large coaching contingents each franchise has. Batting coach, bowling coach, fielding coach and all sorts of specialisations included, it is a huge support team that comprises experts. Most players are of international class and many are looking to break in. Save Malinga who gets his yorker dead on (most times) which is what makes him as successful a T20 bowler, the other bowlers are pretty wayward. Their yorkers can go anywhere from a beamer (full toss over the waist, even at the head) to a juicy overpitched ball. Worse, most times they are bowling juicy knee high full tosses that the batsmen are sending over the ropes gleefully. Come on guys, someone teach these chaps to bowl 24 yorkers in 24 balls - that is the kind of expertise I want to see on show. Something like what the Harlem Globetrotters would show us - show us some magic.

Gayle stands and fires in his yorkers at will and the best in the business cannot do much when the ball comes under your bat. I remember Shivlal Yadav taught me how to bowl a yorker in 1985 when I was playing my first game for Hyderabad in a Buchi Babu tournament. He asked me to aim at a spot below the batsman's knees, somewhere halfway down the shins, and let it go straight at it. You need to get it right in practice but once you get the focus right, it is easy. I have a terrific success rate with it and even a couple of years ago when I played my last league match, I could get 80% on target from five paces. With no practice. It's no rocket science. In ten teams, big franchises, big coaching staff, the best talent on India and the world on display, I cannot find a bowler save Gayle and Malinga who can bowl 24 yorkers in a row! disappointing stuff.

One reason why bowlers do not bowl yorkers is that they are greedy for wickets. Once batsmen figure out the yorker length, they start looking to defend or wait for the marginal error. This is a sure shot way of not getting wickets because batsmen get into a defensive frame of mind. You can surprise the batsman only once or twice with the yorker, not all the time. So bowlers, after a couple of yorkers, experiment to get a wicket, because the run starved batsmen goes for a shot after two dot balls. Most times I feel its the greed to get wickets, or to show off their repertoire, that bowlers do different things like bowling other lengths. Frankly I find it hard to believe that these bowlers do not have it in them to show us this magic of perfect yorkers.

The intelligent bowler is one who knows when a particular ball is working and uses it without second guessing himself. If someone is bowling quick and the batsmen are hopping, then go with it - why bowl a slow ball? If someone is getting lots of swing, just continue - why bowl bouncers or cutters? And if the yorker is working, why bowl any other ball. Time and again Gayle has proved from his two step run up that it can be done.

Intelligent bowling reminds me of one famous over that Fanie de Villiers, the South African bowler who partnered Allan Donald in the nineties, bowled to Sachin Tendulakr in his prime. In a game when Sachin was off to the kind of starts he was off to those days, Fanie bowled  a slower ball, an off spinner which Sachin defended. Fast action, slow ball. The second ball was another slow off spinner, which was a surprise. Sachin defended again. Now everyone thoguht Fanie would change tactic but he sent in another off spinner which Sachin defended again, and then another. Now when you think he will do something different, another off spinner is served. And the last ball, yet another off spinner. The bowler transferred all guessing to the batsman. He just bowled six off spinners to the greatest, most destructive batsman of the time and bowled a maiden over in a crunch one dayer. That was incredible! I would have loved to see Fanie bowl in the T20, he was a different kind of a bowler.

Now will someone bowl 24 perfect yorkers please!

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