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The year 2013 has been a good one for Ben Laughlin. The pacer not only made his way back into the Australian side in the shortest format of the game but found himself in one of the most dominating teams, the Chennai Super Kingsin the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013.
While he has seen some stormy performances over the past few weeks, the Australian pacer also witnessed rain and winds lash the Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Saturday evening. With the training session brought to a grinding halt and everyone running for cover, iplt20.com caught up with Laughlin.
One of the batters who have been whacking the ball to all parts of the ground is MS Dhoni and Laughlin is fortunate to be on the same side as the Indian captain after being at the receiving end of Dhoni’s special treatment at nets.
“I am probably scared of bowling to MS the most,” the 30-year old said.
Enjoying his first season in the tournament, Laughlin spoke about his bowling, team and playing in front of massive crowds in India in a free flowing chat.
Excerpts from the interview:
How has the journey been getting back into the National side? How did you work your way back?
It is has been fun over the last 12 months I suppose. I had some good results in the Big Bash back home in Australia and that led to the Australian selection. It was good to get back into the National team and very fun being here as part of the CSK and the IPL.
Getting into the IPL, how did that come about for you?
It was amazing to be chosen for CSK but it was also a little nerve wracking to be in the auction and to wait and see if anyone bids. It was quite a sight before CSK put their hand up for me. That was a good feeling to have them bid for me and for me to end up playing for them.
How have you worked and developed your slower one?
When I was younger I bowled a bit of off-spin so that sort of helped me. That experience helps me bowl the slower ball more than most of the others. It sort of just evolved from there and yes it has been quite successful for me over the last couple of years.
Would you consider yourself a specialist in the shorter formats?
It is not by choice. I just tend to be better in the white ball game than red ball. I would love to play some first-class cricket but am not getting selected at the moment. But I will keep plugging away and try and get into the four-day team as well.
What are the challenges while bowling in the shorter formats and T20?
In T20, batters don’t have much fear, so they are always trying to hit big shots. Considering that, you always bowl sensibly which is hard but that’s the job which we are given. So it is quite exciting.
What do you focus on, wicket-taking or containing?
Containing! I find that if you contain batsmen, wickets just tend to come. If you bowl some dots to the batsman you normally get an errant shot which can result in a wicket.
What variations do you consider your strengths?
My Yorkers are normally quite good if I land them and my bouncers are kind of effective but not so much here because the wickets here are not as quick as they are back home.
How have you been training to play on wickets here?
I have been having a lot of time in the nets, bowling to MS (Dhoni), which is quite fun because he really hits me out of the park. It is good fun bowling to him and working on my slower balls, trying against the best I suppose.
What are the challenges in death bowling?
In the death overs you just have to accept that you will get whacked in the occasional game, but hopefully you can come out on top in a few which helps the team.
We are seeing bowlers getting hit in the death. What is needed to stop the bludgeoning by batsmen?
It seems that in the last two overs bowlers are going for twenty or more runs. It is a little bit of positive that it is not just yourself who is getting whacked but everyone is. I think we are just a little bit off at the moment. Our Yorkers are not quite there and guys are starting to play a few different shots, like AB de Villiers with his reverse sweep, that’s a new one. That is something that you have to try and counter attack.
What are the areas that CSK will be looking to improve on moving forward?
I think our death bowling probably. Initially, it’s was improving, but somewhere it was lost here and there. But our batting has been quite strong throughout so if we can get enough runs on the board it makes death bowling a bit easier.
After playing in the Big Bash, how has the IPL experience been for you?
The IPL has got the Big Bash covered by a long way. There are a lot more people involved in the IPL and lot more fans there and it is an amazing experience. It’s something that I probably never thought was ever going to happen, but eventually I got here. The crowd support and the fans all around India are just amazing.
What does this platform mean to you?
It is my first good trip away with a franchise in twenty20 competition. It is nice to see how it works. Especially not playing all the time, it is a difficult thing to cope with some times. We are used to playing back in our country so it is a good mental test but obviously training with the likes of MS, (Suresh) Raina and boys like that is obviously just an amazing experience and hopefully I can build on that when I get back home.
Who has influenced your bowling?
Influenced or scared me! I am probably scared of bowling to MS the most in the nets, but influence wise the coach has been good. My father back home has had a big part to play and all the coaches along the way have been great, but over here, it is probably just challenging to bowl to MS.
Which batsman from the other teams do you dread the most?
It is a weird one! I have played against Mumbai Indians twice and Harbhajan has hit me out of the park a couple of times. So I would have to say Harbhajan at the moment.
When one talks about the best finishers in IPL 2013, besides the usual suspects, a new name makes an entry. And like most good finishers, the impressive factor about him is that he is equally adept at pacing his innings to the ‘T’ when coming up the order.
Based on the performances this IPL, David Miller can surely be placed in the class ofMS Dhoni and AB de Villiers when it comes to versatility. If his 101* off 38 balls against RCB told us anything about the 23-year-old South African, it was that he is a marathon runner and not a slog-a-thon freak. The straight hits, proper technique and the ability to build his innings before going for the stands – it was all an indication that Miller is capable of playing in multiple gears, just like Dhoni and de Villiers.
It should hence, come as no surprise that Miller started out as a top-order batsman and was moulded in the middle-order role since he started playing professional cricket. That’s when he developed his big-hitting, to cater to the slog-overs’ needs. But as he says, “I like to see myself as batsman and not a slogger. It’s something I take pride in”.
In a chat with iplt20.com, Miller spoke of his transition from an anchor to a finisher and how Lance Klusener helped him on the way.
Do you see this IPL season as the turning point of your career?
Yes, definitely. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to play for the franchise. For me personally, I’ve really enjoyed batting on the Indian wickets. It’s a very different experience from what I’ve had back home in South Africa and you learn so much along the way. In 2011 I didn’t get a game and the last year I only got six games. In IPL only four overseas players can play at a time.
Have you always fancied striking the ball big or is it something you developed along the way?
I think I’ve developed that along the way. Growing up I used to bat a lot higher up the order and so had to get through the new ball. Now that I’ve gone down into the middle-order, I’ve had to develop the stroke-play to adapt to the role.
An important aspect of batting in the middle-order is finishing games. How did you develop that aspect of your game?
I’ve been fortunate to have Lance Klusener as my coach since the last season and he has played an immense part in nurturing the finishing aspect of batting. He’s just helped me a lot with my confidence. Also, as I have been playing professional cricket I have learnt a lot from the ex-players, trying to gather all the information and using it in my game. While chasing, there are these couple of things that I do.
I’ve realised that even at the end of the innings, you’ve got more time that you think. Out there in the middle everyone sort of rushes and there’s a lot of pressure around you. That’s when you need to calm yourself down and believe that you have enough time on your hands. What also helps me is looking at the number of balls rather than overs that are left. 60 runs from 36 balls sounds a lot easier mentally than 60 runs from six overs does. Another important thing is to practice in such a way that when the ball is in your hitting area, it must go. You will get such balls during the end overs of a chase because the bowlers are under pressure too. If you can hit out, that will release the pressure.
Who do you think is the best finisher in cricket today?
MS Dhoni has shown how good he really is over the last couple of years and he is probably the best in that regards right now.