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It takes immense sense of security and selflessness as the leader of a group to accept shortcomings and be harsh on yourself for the greater good of the team. In IPL, many captains have shown that readiness to drop themselves from the team in order to maintain the balance of the side.
It was ironical that two of Australia’s greatest batsmen – Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting– treaded that path in the same game, on Monday evening. While Ponting has been sitting out to get an in-from opening pair in place, Gilchrist made the decision in order to give opportunity to the younger overseas players.
The ploy almost worked for Kings XI Punjab as they came within four excruciating runs to chasing down Mumbai Indians’ 174. After the thriller in Mumbai, iplt20.com spoke to Gilchrist in an attempt to understand his mindset as the team’s leader.
Not the result you aimed for but you must be proud of the fight the team showed chasing that total?
Yes, they almost chased it down but not quite. It was a nice fighting effort when it looked like the match was going out of hand. There’s a bit of positive to take from the game.
When did you decide that you will sit out this game and how long have you been contemplating it?
Since the last few games we’ve had to think about it as a selection group. We had to look at the right balance and find the right players who were playing well and could contribute most to the team. It was obvious that I haven’t contributed with the runs but there are other things that I bring to the table as well. We were just trying to work out whether that outweighed the option of giving the opportunity to someone else. Shaun Marsh was fit and we had Luke Pomersbach on the sidelines as well. In the end I thought it was more compelling to give them the opportunity rather than me playing with the results I’d been getting.
Some of the shots you played against SRH and KKR gave an impression that a big knock was around the corner. Did feel the same?
Those two innings were okay but in eight games if you haven’t made a significant contribution you’re a bit of a passenger. We’ve said all along that we want to pick our team based on performance and not reputation. I’ll keep practising and if the opportunity arises, I’ll come in and nail that big one.
At times even when the runs aren’t coming in the match, you know that you are in good nick. How are you feeling about your form at the moment?
Form is a rubbish word. It’s more accurate to say that you’re not getting results. You’re spot on – there are times when you feel good about your game but fail to score runs. I’ve had more batting practice for this IPL than any other previous season. I have hit a lot of balls in the nets and have felt very comfortable. But that hasn’t translated to results in games. You can go into every fine detail of my dismissals saying I was unlucky there or the bowler was fortunate. But at the end of the day I haven’t contributed and that’s no problem when you’ve got batting talent like Shaun Marsh, Pomersbach, David Hussey and David Miller. It’s not a tough decision. It’s unfortunate and I’d love to do well but that’s not the case.
How tough is it to prepare your body and mind for two months of cricket in a year?
I haven’t found it that tough up to this point. This is the first time that I’ve had a run of low scores like this. Who knows if that’s another year older and another year out of it. You definitely realise that you’re a little bit behind the pace year after year as compared to the guys who are playing cricket full time. Whether it’s up to the point that you can’t contribute is what you have to make up your mind eventually on.
Did the thought of giving up wicket-keeping gloves and just playing as a batsman ever cross your mind?
No, never. I’ve played years and years of cricket now. So for me it’s not a case of having to focus on batting because keeping is taking up time and energy. It’s part of my nature now and part of who I am. It’s like riding a bike. Once you know it, you don’t need to focus on the skills required and think of the work load impeding on the batting. If anything, I have contributed more with the gloves than with the bat this year and so I am lucky to have my keeping gloves on.
You’ve been a leader and a mentor in IPL. In which role have you evolved more?
That’s an interesting question. I’ve never sat back and thought about how I have evolved in a single role. Right from the first IPL I’ve tried to bring in all my all-round cricketing experience into the two sides I’ve been part of (Deccan Chargers and KXIP). I’ve tried to use my batting, keeping, captaincy and leadership skills to create an environment in the team. It’s all part of the package.
A word on David Miller? What impresses the most about him?
Just his personality. He’s one of the most lovely young blokes you’ll come across. His appetite for learning and his work ethic to complement his clean striking are all excellent. He’s been in the IPL since three years and has done a lot of watching for the first two years. Now that he’s got his chance you can see how well he has developed. He’s growing at the international scene as well for South Africa. Do you know how all were looking forward to seeing an Adam Gilchrist vs Ricky Ponting contest? And none of you played!
We both got splinters sitting on our backside on the wooden bench (laughs). I do look forward to the contest when MI come to Mohali but not in any way other than getting two points over his team. I look forward to seeing him and having a drink with him tonight. It was funny, we were chatting to each other before the game about sitting on the bench and that’s the way it is. There are worse things you could be doing in life.
Given KXIP’s resources, what is your take on the team’s standing half way into the tournament?
Talking about the resources of the teams, you’ve only got to look at the salaries paid out by teams to figure out which is a white collar team and which is a blue collar one. We’re a blue collar team and that’s not for a moment questioning our owners. That’s the kind of franchise we are. MI have paid over 12 million dollars to their players; they have a bloke they’re paying a million dollars who doesn’t even look like getting a game (Glenn Maxwell). When you have more money to dispose it’s going to allow you better selection. That doesn’t mean our franchise is of lesser value as people. We are a team of grinders; we fight really hard and we don’t have any ego around the team. It’s a lovely atmosphere to play in.
Into his first season of the IPL and Mitchell Johnson has quietly made his mark. Although not rampaging into sides and storming into the competition for the Purple Cap, Johnson has been the most effective pacer for the Mumbai Indians – a big achievement when your fellow fast bowler is one named Lasith Malinga.
The Australian left-arm pacer has shown his class and control consistently in the tournament, not least when bowling to Chris Gayle immediately after the West Indian had blasted 175 against PWI. Johnson bowled 11 balls to him for 16 runs. The pressure led to Gayle’s cheap dismissal and MI’s win over RCB.
We, at iplt20.com caught up with Johnson to find answers that bowlers over the world are looking for – how to get Gayle out. Johnson also spoke about the technicalities that have helped him succeed this IPL.
This is your first IPL and you seemed to have adapted quite smoothly?
This being my first IPL season, the excitement and enjoyment that I am getting out of it has been great. Shane Watson always talked it up and I often chat with him about how it is like to play in the IPL. Now to get the opportunity and that too in Mumbai, which has the best of conditions for a pacer, has been brilliant.
Technically, what has been the key for you to bowl here?
I like to use the cutters but I also use the short ball quite often. Using the short ball on wickets like this (the Wankhede Stadium) at a quicker pace is very important and so are the change-ups. But in saying that, you have to vary the ploy depending on each batsman.
Are you also bowling with a slightly higher arm than normal?
Yes, probably a little bit. I’m always going to be a slingy bowler; I’m never going to be quite as tall as a Glenn McGrath. I had seven months away from the game and I just missed out coming to the IPL in the last season because of my toe injury. Post injury, I was able to work a bit on the technical things. I’ve had a bit of time in India during the Test series as well. The arm has been slightly higher but in the end my action will always be a bit slingy, which is the way I like it.
Is one of the perks of playing for MI the fact that in most games you bowl on a wicket that offers a bit of swing early on and bounce?
Yes, there has been a bit of swing around for me in most games here. That definitely helps in creating doubt in the batsman’s mind. Anyone who can swing the ball at 140-kph mark is difficult to deal with. It’s nice to get bowling friendly conditions. I know it’s not always going to be like that but at home it’s been very good.
That spell you bowled to Chris Gayle in the home game against RCB was one of the better contests we’ve seen this season. What was the plan bowling to him?
He was coming after a top score (175 against Pune Warriors India). We planned on bowling short to him, especially on a nice, quick wicket like this one. We wanted to unsettle him and it seemed to work. We got him moving around in the crease which he doesn’t like to do. You never know if a ploy would work on a day in T20 cricket but it worked at that time. We did it as a team. (Lasith) Malinga bowled very well to him as well and we tied him up early on.
Who would you rather bowl to – Gayle or Mike Hussey?
That’s a very tough question. Mike Hussey plays very classical and correct cricket shots whereas Chris goes for power and hits it a very long way. I’d rather not bowl to any of them at their best. But it’s always good bowling to old team mates. Having played with Mike, it was a little bit strange playing against him in Chennai but I really enjoyed bowling to him. He’s such a world-class player in every format and just for the challenge of bowling to a former team mate, I’d love to bowl to him again, and hopefully get his wicket too.
What do you think is a more effective tool in the death overs – a yorker or a wide full-toss?
It depends on individual batsmen. You’ve really got to do your homework on players. I think if you can bowl a very good yorker, it’s pretty hard to hit. On our Mumbai ground, the square is quite long and so it’s quite hard to hit a good short ball there. It really does come down to the conditions, grounds and players. But if you can bowl the Malinga yorkers, you’ll do pretty well to stick to them.
How’s it been bowling with Malinga?
I first bowled with him at the 2012 CLT20 but we didn’t get much time together then. So, bowling with him in this IPL has been really exciting for me. He’s one of the best T20 bowlers going around, using his yorkers and slower ones. It’s actually been very good playing with him and not worrying about him bowling to me. We have been able to learn from each other and give advice to each other. I was excited at the prospect of bowling with him when I got signed up by MI. We have been bowling really well as a pair and hopefully we can continue throughout the tournament.