KKR bowling mentor reveals trade secrets, talks about his pace army
By Shirin Sadikot
Bengaluru 11 April 2012
Asked to pick the best bowler in the world in a recent interview, Brett Lee didn’t blink once before saying – Wasim Akram. “He taught me how to bowl the in-swinger with the new ball,” the Australian pace superstar conceded.
During IPL 2011, Eoin Morgan was asked to name the toughest bowler he had faced ever. England’s young stroke-maker shot back, “Wasim Akram in the nets.”
In his first interview after taking over as Kolkata Knight Riders’ coach, Tervor Bayliss told iplt20.com that it would be silly if he didn’t use Akram’s expertise to prepare batsmen for the IPL 2012 bowlers.
And this is just a random sampling. Wasim Akram, a nerve-shattering bowler in his playing days, is now a fine repository of cricketing knowledge, marked by an approachability and humility that makes him the ideal bowling coach.
In an exclusive interview with iplt20.com, Akram spoke about his KKR wards.
The KKR Pace Army
“I work with a very talented group of bowlers. We have a mix of seniors and youngsters; I have a different approach to both. My main job is to give them confidence. I cannot teach fast bowling to Brett Lee. I can only tell him what to bowl in different circumstances.”
“Brett Lee is a very quick learner and a very good listener. I have been working on certain deliveries with him and he’s grasping it all very well. It is very difficult to bowl the in-swinger with the new ball, but he has learnt very quickly. I think that’s the reason why he’s been so successful in limited-overs cricket in the last year and a half.
He struggles a bit on Indian wickets because of two things. First, he relies heavily on pace and doesn’t have enough variations in his bowling. Secondly, his smooth and beautiful action makes it easy for the batsman to watch him. Bowlers like me, or Dale Steyn, do well because of our quick-arm action, which ensures the batsman has less time to react.”
The Young Guns
“Jaydev [Unadkat], Shami Ahmed and Pradeep Sangwan – all these bowlers have been getting wickets in domestic cricket. Getting wickets on Indian tracks shows these boys have the potential. It’s very difficult to judge a bowler on the basis of his T20 performance because if you have a bad day – it doesn’t matter how well you’ve bowled – you might go for 40-50 runs. I judge a bowler [on the basis of his performance] in the longer versions of the game. This is a good bunch of bowlers. They’re hardworking and will improve. That will eventually benefit KKR.”
Stars in the making
“I’m really impressed with Shami Ahmed. He plays first-class cricket for Bengal and in the IPL he’s a part of KKR. I think Shami Ahmed is almost ready to play for India.
Varun Aaron is quite sharp. First of all he has to get fit. He’s got this fitness issue since the last two years, which is a shame. He’s just begun his international career and he should be playing for India regularly.”
The Science of Swing
“I see fast-bowling coaches around the world these days relate swing bowling to things like an upright seam. Another phrase I’ve learned from coaches these days is ‘to load the ball’. I don’t know what that means. If I struggle to understand it, how will a young Indian or Pakistani bowler understand it? It just complicates things.”
“It is actually very simple. Swing lies in the wrist; the more you play with your wrist, the better you’ll become at swinging the ball. That’s where the nets come handy. I can go and turn my wrist over naturally but I should also be able to bring the ball in to surprise the batsman. For that I need to practice hard.”
“We perhaps have the most number of all-rounders. We have Yusuf Pathan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Shakib Al Hasan, Rajat Bhatia and Laxmi Ratan Shukla. Not all of them have clicked but I believe the variety we have in our batting and bowling is among of the best in the tournament.”
A ‘Gambhir’ leader
“Gautam takes his cricket very seriously. I would’ve been a little more relaxed if I were in his place. I go to his room ever other night and try and have a bit of a laugh. I try not to talk cricket with him. I tell him that we can talk as much cricket he wants in the team meeting but not at that time. Overall, he’s a very genuine person. The team loves him and the players know that he feels for the team.
As a captain, Gautam is always very involved. I can see him grow as a leader – he’s quickly learning how to play on the opposition’s mind. He’s getting the knack of not doing what the opponent wants you to do. I believe he has a bright future ahead of him as a captain.”