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Having skippered South Africa in T20’s and led the team to some exciting victories, Johan Botha brings with him a wealth of experience to the Delhi Daredevils dugout. The senior cricketer who also plies his skills in the Australian domestic circuit was signed on by the franchise ahead of the 2013 season. A seasoned campaigner, Botha who was earlier part of the Rajasthan Royals will play an important role for DD especially in the absence of the likes of Virender Sehwag and Kevin Pietersen. His ability to contribute with the bat, ball and fielding makes Botha an important cog in any line-up.
The off-spinner who bowled pace in his early days had to switch to off-spin due to a back injury but feels that the change is what has given him the opportunity to play around the world and opened up new doors for him.
Ahead of the game against Rajasthan Royals, Botha spoke about bowling in the sub-continent and playing for the Daredevils.
Excerpts from the interaction:
Having led South Africa to victories in the past you bring a lot of experience with you. How do you see your role and responsibility especially in the present circumstances?
This summer I played in Australia and I was captain then and I really enjoyed that. I have played a quite a bit if T20 cricket and if I can use that experience to help Mahela (Jayawardene) to help David (Warner) to help anyone in the team. If I am playing I will definitely help and even if I am not playing I will look to still add some value. It is a long tournament and obviously as an overseas player you are not guaranteed of playing every game and you want to contribute wherever you can. So if you have to sit out for a few games you can still make a contribution to the team and that’s important to keep helping the guys on the field.
What according to you is the key to success in the shortest format of the game?
It is a couple of different things. You have to adapt to different conditions and adapt to the game and think on your feet. That’s always the key especially as a spinner. Batsmen do hit you but spinners have done well in the past in T20 cricket. I think it is always about trying to stay one step ahead of the opposition but you still have to be pretty good in your basics. You still have to land the ball in good areas and you hit some good cricket shots. So I think those are the things for me - try and stay one step ahead and still play good cricket shots or bowl good deliveries.
How different is it while bowling on sub-continent wickets compared to bowling in South Africa and Australia?
Players play spin a lot better here so I think that’s the big difference. In Australia and South Africa the ball bounces more and that probably helps you and if the batsmen try to take you on they are more likely to miss the middle of the bat. It doesn’t bounce so much in the sub-continent (so), you have to try and beat the batsmen in flight, try and spin the ball more. Those are the basics - less bounce but more spin, but guys also play it really well.
You have played alongside Rahul Dravid earlier and now with Mahela Jayawardene who are good players of spin. What do you learn from them that helps your bowling?
Rahul is one of the excellent players, one of the greats of the game. He does play spin really well and that’s going to be a good contest tomorrow. Ajinkya (Rahane) was excellent last year, one of the players of the tournament.
And playing with Mahela we saw his class the other night while playing in Kolkata , everyone struggled on the pitch and he made it look easy so it is great to play with some world class players, but you are always going to come up against some good ones in the tournament.
Have you picked any clues on getting batsmen like them out?
Spending time with Mushy (Mushtaq Ahmed) has been very good. He is our spin bowling guy. We have just had chats. We don’t chat about new deliveries (or) new skills but he chats with us just to reassure us that what we are doing sometimes does work. Even though batsmen take you for runs sometimes, Mushy is calm about it. He says, as spinners you are going to go for runs somewhere along the line and so not to worry too much about that and keep bowling your best deliveries.
How did you switch to spin?
That was about eight years ago now. I have bowled spin for eight years. I had a back injury and sort of had to decide whether I was going to bowl medium pace and change my action or switch over to spin and at the time I was messing around the nets with spin bowling and a couple of guys, Mickey Arthur and Mark Boucher came to me and said, why don’t you just try bowling spin and if it doesn’t work always go back and I have never gone back so it’s been something great that happened to me. I think that if I was just a medium pacer I would probably just have played first-class cricket in South Africa. This has taken me all around the world and I have really enjoyed it.
Which batsman has presented the biggest challenge to you so far?
There are some good players of spin in the IPL. There are some great players like, Kumar Sangakkara, Gautam (Gambhir), Mahela and then some of the Indian guys. Sachin (Tendulkar) is there. That’s always a challenge. Then there is Yusuf Pathan , Kieron Pollard so that’s the guys that you put on bit more pressure but it is good to play against them and if you do well it is good and rewarding and nice.
The Delhi Daredevils side has a mix of some very experienced players and some very young players. Your take ?
We have a few really experienced guys and that is a good blend to have in the team. All the guys want to keep showing that they can perform and the young guys are keen to impress and do their bit, so I think it’s a really good mix. We only got a couple of guys in the middle – in their mid twenties. Over all it is a good blend for us. I think we just need to play a bit more together and get into it and I think if we can get one or two wins under the belt everyone will settle down and relax and we should be good from there.
Looking forward to the IPL 2013
It is exciting! It is obviously a new team for me. I really enjoyed my four years with Rajasthan Royals and now I am with Delhi Daredevils, a team that has done really well in the past and IPL history and hopefully I can contribute for us to be in the play-offs again.
A few months back, Jasprit Bumrah was just another Indian teenager belonging to a middle-class family, coping with studies and trying to sneak in as much time as he can to play cricket. However, one sudden day, a godfather emerged and led him into a whole new world; a world of which young Jasprit hesitated to even dream of.
Today, young Jasprit finds himself breathing the same air, sharing the same space and eating the same food as the men he grew up idolising. The 19-year-old pacer from Ahmedabad is now playing in the Pepsi IPL 2013 as part of the Mumbai Indians.
To add further romance to his story, in the tie against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, he became the second Mumbai Indians bowler to pick three wickets on debut. The first was Lasith Malinga, who missed the match due to injury.
For Bumrah it all began in the school, as it does for most kids. “I started playing cricket during my summer holidays after class X. Then I began to attend other summer camps and play regularly,” Bumrah said as he shared his fascinating story with iplt20.com.
The first step post-summer camps came when Bumrah made his Twenty20 debut for Gujarat in the 2013 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (India’s domestic T20 tournament). His 3 for 14 in the final against Punjab helped Gujarat lift the trophy.
But Bumrah’s fate was written a few days before his title-winning performance. On March 13 as he plied his trade against Mumbai in Ahmedabad, Bumrah had a watcher in Mumbai Indians’ newly appointed coach, John Wright. The medium pacer went wicketless in that match and managed a scalp in the next. But Wright saw something that most didn’t and suggested his name to the franchise.
“John Wright had come to watch one of our T20 matches and he watched me bowl in two games,” Bumrah recollects. “He didn’t talk to me or hinted anything. After he went, I got a call asking if I was interested in signing a contract with the Mumbai Indians.”
What stands out in Bumrah’s demeanour is his habit of responding to questions in as few words as he can manage and the quiet confidence that he exudes. Any kid who enters a room filled with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Anil Kumble with only nine Twenty20s under his belt to show for his cricketing experience, would resemble a bundle of nerves. But not this kid.
“I did feel a little overawed by all the big players in the team initially. But they were so welcoming and friendly, they made me feel at ease and helped me mix up in the dressing room very quickly,” Bumrah said with a straight face.
His confidence came to the fore when he claimed to be fully prepared for the biggest cricket match of his life. “I was preparing my best but didn’t know until the last moment that I was playing. The coach declared the Playing XI before the match and my name was on the list.
“It was the first time that I played in front of such huge crowd but I wasn’t paying any attention to the crowd. The more you focus on the inside, the better it is,” Bumrah said, referring to the thousands of cheering RCB fans at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
While his calming traits could be observed by talking to him, there was a side to this shy little boy that came out when he claimed his first IPL wicket. After he trapped Virat Kohli lbw off the fifth ball of his first over, the tiny teenager indulged in aggressive celebration of air-punching and screaming.
When asked about the gesture, all he offered was, “He had hit me for three boundaries in that over and so I was angry.” When inquired whether that was just the enormity of occasion that got to him, he shot back, “I am always like this on the field.”