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For the first half of the first innings, you could feel the Rajasthan Royals were well and truly playing at home. The Mumbai Indians bowlers were carted all over the park; if they bowled length, they were massacred straight down the ground or over mid-on or mid-off for boundaries and maximums. On a day when the MI bowlers had an off day on the field, Harbhajan Singh proved to be the side’s lone bright star with the most economical bowling figures and a wicket to his name.
In an exclusive chat with IPLT20.com, Habhajan talks about his approach towards bowling in the shortest format of the game and expresses his appreciation for Haryana spinner Ajit Chandila.
Is bowling in T20s the biggest challenge for a bowler?
Bowling in T20s has always been a challenge. Since we are playing in India, it is even more difficult where the pitches are batting friendly and the boundaries are quite small. But these are things that every bowler has to go through. I believe at the end of the day, you got to believe in yourself and give it your best shot when you are about to bowl under such circumstances.”
How important have slow bowlers become in this format of the game?
Look, bowlers are going to go for runs in this format of the game. But you have to think that, when the batsmen are looking to go after you, you have a chance to pick wickets as well at the same time. You have to keep believing in yourself as a bowler that even if you go for runs, you can pick up wickets. You have to back yourself and bowl accordingly.
IPL is such a tournament where there are a lot of unknown batsmen. How tough is it to bowl to such kind of batsmen?
It is the toughest to bowl against batsmen who you do not have an idea about. You do not know their style of play and what kind of strokes they play to score their runs, hence it is challenging. Whatever videos I get to see of such batsmen, I try to analyse that part of it and bowl my best balls to them when I face them.
How important are dot balls in T20s?
Dot balls are obviously vital in the game. You put a lot of pressure on the opposition when you bowl a lot of dot balls. They are important to the game, but I believe you can only survive in this format of the game by taking wickets. Taking wickets have to be of more importance than trying to just bowl dot balls.
What is your approach before every T20 game?
I try to keep things as simple as possible. I take the game one step at a time. I always feel I have to bowl according to the situation of the team. I back myself whether I am bowling up front or bowling in the middle of the innings or bowling at the death. I try to give the best services to my team whenever I represent my team.
Tell us about your new found camaraderie with Ricky Ponting.
(Smiles) I am playing for a team. For me the team comes first, no matter whom I am playing with or whom I am playing against. If I am playing for one team, whether it is playing with Ricky Ponting or Keiron Pollard, I will still run and hug my team mates.
Your take on Ajit Chandila?
Ajit Chandila is a different bowler. Not many people have seen much of him. He bowled really well. He bowls slowly in the air which has been the key to his success today. This performance by him today will boost his confidence as getting the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting is no joke. I wish him good luck and he deserves the appreciation. Hope he makes it to the top level.
VVS Laxman,Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir,MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina. Now, let us add Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting to that list of Ajit Chandila’s list of victims with the ball. He has claimed the wickets of some of the biggest names in the game by weaving his magic with the ball in first class cricket; but on Wednesday night in front of a huge crowd at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur, Chandila lived a dream. A dream that, every bowler dreams of while growing up and watching cricket.
Chandila got the priced wicket of Sachin Tendulkar in the very first over of the match, and to top it up in his very next over pouched Ricky Ponting, walking back to the pavilion looking at the sky in dismay. Chandila, walking by the boundary ropes after the win; still reminiscing his moment of glory spoke to IPLT20.com. From taking pride of dismissing Tendulkar and Ponting to treating his RR captain Rahul Dravid like God to idolising Saqlain Mushtaq, Ajit Chandila says it all.
Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting are big names to have in your bag of wickets? It does not get better than this, does it?
It is like a dream come true for me. Taking the wickets of two legends of the game is like a double hat trick for me. I still cannot believe this has happened, I feel I am in some sort of dream. I just cannot express how I feel. My hands and feet are cold at the moment. As a bowler, I cannot ask for anything more.
Were you nervous when you walked in to bowl to Sachin Tendulkar in the first over?
Yes, I was really nervous when I had that ball in my hand. Before the match, I was advised by Narendra Hirwani Sir to stick to my line and length and vary my pace. He told me I am bowling to players of really high caliber, but asked me to be confident in my approach. I did as he said and I got the wickets of two of the world’s best batsmen. I have no clue what magic his words have on me, but I always do well when he talks to me and boosts my confidence.
What did your captain Rahul Dravid have to say when he tossed the ball in your hand?
Rahul Dravid Sir is like God for me. He just placed his hands on my head before the first over and said, “Ajit, you will bowl well. Just be confident when you are bowling and the rest will take care of itself.” Those words were in my head as I went to bowl. I am glad it worked today and I hope it works whenever I get a chance to play.
Going into this game, had you planned how you would bowl against a strong MI batting line up?
When our batsmen were scoring freely, I thought the wicket was really good for batting and sitting at the dug-out I was planning how to approach the game. I had planned to bowl slowly and vary my pace. It worked as I got the biggest scalps from the Mumbai Indians batting line up.
Do you think you have an added advantage because of your height?
Yes, I feel my biggest advantage is my height. Whenever I talk to any of the batsmen during the net sessions or during domestic tournaments, they always say that it is tough to read me from that kind of height. The biggest compliment I have got in my life is from Rahul Dravid when he said, that he has played the world’s best spinners throughout his career, but when he bats against me, it is tough to read my grip and read me through my release. Those compliments are still etched in my mind.
Which bowler do you idolise in world cricket?
I have always admired Pakistan’s legendary off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq and I have followed him since I was a kid. He has been a great inspiration for me.
If you were to choose between your hat-trick last year and the two wickets today, what would you choose?
You can take my hat-trick. These two wickets matter a lot more to me than my hat-trick last year!