A warm evening at Wankhede not too long back, as Dale Steyn roared in with the ball, watching him closely was his South African colleague on the other end, the $400,000-worth Richard Levi. As the Mumbai Indians fans’ cheers reached a crescendo, the 130-plus kmph delivery, seam pointing at first slip, bounced at good length and broke through the batsman to strike the timber. This first ball of the innings stunned the crowd, and Steyn celebrated by feigning a yawn as if to say, ‘routine business’!
Nearly all the remaining deliveries of his over, Steyn overshot 140 kmph, his furious spell tying the in-form number 3 Rohit Sharma in knots. Not many would recall this splendid wicket maiden, a rarity in the IPL, but overs with 14, 20, 28 runs gone off them, yes, they’re etched in stone, even though they happen every other innings! The batsman’s sport’s bullying of the bowlers is most evident and brash during the Indian Premier League, and it seems nobody’s complaining.
It hasn’t only been Steyn, whose bowling exploits are an art regardless the format, but other exponents of the art Morne Morkel, Shaun Tait, Zaheer Khan, even the highest wicket-taker in the history of the game, Muralitharan have been victims of short-term memory of the tournament.
Surely, the blame falls upon the format of the game, the flat pitches and general laws of entertainment; nobody pays to watch a low-scoring game with outstanding bowling. But true appreciators of T20 would agree that a perfectly pitched slow bouncer at a crucial stage is as much a weapon to vanquish the opponent as a dashing sixer over long on.
But in IPL reality, unless the bowler is as bizarre (in looks and action!) as Malinga, we’re not likely to talk about him. This could be unfair on some pretty handy bowling talents such as Shahbaz Nadeem and Parvinder Awana who’ve shown some class in their performances. They might never reach close to the Purple Cap (thankfully, a recognition for good bowling!) but to even earn their limelight, they’ll have to toil harder.
Talking of toil, as if putting in more on fitness wasn’t enough, T20’s bowlers have to devise newer strategies to garner dot balls and wickets. The slow bouncer and the carrom ball require more practice than a Dilscoop or switch-hit and are a treat to watch whenever delivered with perfection! This edition, we’ve loved watching the measured elegance of Kallis, the reignited energy of Irfan Pathan and the Donald-esque jumps of Ashok Dinda. Our favourite, however, has been Sunil Narine, KKR’s game-changing offie. Even the biggest fans of wham-bam batting must agree, watching Narine’s mystery flummox even Tendulkar is something special!
“It’s not about bowling at a spot, it’s about how the ball gets there,” Shane Warne had famously said. But with a nation that still remembers the legendary Kapil Dev for his 175* and not for the countless number of remarkable out-swingers he’s bowled, it doesn’t seem like it bothers how the ball gets there!
Photo Credits: Cricinfo