James Faulkner - owning the death overs

RR all-rounder reveals the secret behind his sensational death bowling skills

Ahmedabad 05 May 2014
Handling the pressure in the final six overs of a tight game is perhaps the most nerve-wracking aspect of Twenty20 cricket. It not only requires some very specific skills, but also the tranquility of mind to exercise those skills.

In this season of Pepsi IPL, there’s a player who has displayed these virtues with aplomb not once but twice in the last three matches he has played. James Faulkner, who scripted Rajasthan Royals’s stunning Super-Over win against Kolkata Knight Riders in Abu Dhabi a few days ago, once again held his nerve in the death overs to defeat the same opponents in Ahmedabad.

After Shane Watson and Pravin Tambe reduced KKR to 123 for six from 121 for no loss, leaving them needing 24 from 12 balls, Faulkner fired in some yorkers and fuller deliveries in the 19th over to ensure Suryakumar Yadav and Shakib Al Hasan scored only seven runs off it. 17 runs from six balls proved to be a bit too much, even for the hard-hitting KKR batsmen and RR stole a 10-run win from under KKR’s nose.

After the match, Faulkner revealed to how he has managed to achieve twice what even the best bowlers in the world have faltered at.

Here are excerpts from his interview:

You are turning out to be a death bowling specialist, which is a dream of every T20 captain to have.

I suppose that’s what I am in the team for – to bowl in the death following a couple of overs here and there in the first six overs. Tonight it worked out well with the team. We weren’t in the game at all coming into the last seven overs. Somehow we took one wicket out of nowhere and then just managed to snatch it from there. It’s a pretty good feeling.

It is my job and I’ll be disappointed if I cannot execute it; and there will be days when that will happen. But the feeling that you get on the days when you manage to execute it and see the winning faces of your teammates, it is worth it. We will enjoy tonight and then I will have to restart my batteries for the next match to do the same.

How do you prepare for death bowling in the nets?

Personally, I just try to pick the best batsman in the team, preferably the one that generally bats at the death and is used to facing yorkers, slower ones and slower bouncers. I try and pair up with him when I can. It is a win-win situation as we both get to work on our respective death games with the help of each other.

How do you formulate your plan when bowling in slog overs?

It depends on everything. Some players don’t like the straight yorkers, while some cannot reach the wide yorkers. Also, a lot of it comes down to luck – an edge here and there can fly to the fence. It also depends on whether you are setting a target or chasing it. Tonight, I just tried to get as many yorkers as I could, knowing that we didn’t have too many runs to defend. All I was concerned about was they should not be able to hit the ball to the fence. However, the stage was set by Watson, who took three wickets in an over and then the hat-trick that Pravin Tambe got. Those were a couple of best IPL overs we have seen.

Does being a hard-hitter at the end of the innings yourself also help you think like the batsman and hence trick him?

It certainly does. When you are also a batsman, it helps you read the game better. I have been lucky to have been given opportunities at RR to play a real all-round role right through last IPL, CLT20 and now in this tournament, and grow more in that role. Hopefully, I will be here for the next few years, play that role and own it. It’s good to be playing again; it’s been a long couple of months trying to sort my body out and it’s good to be back.

What is more important in such situations – nerve or skill?

You are always going to have nerves and feel the pressure in such situations. Good players overcome them better than the ordinary ones do. You need to block the crowd out, which is not as easy as people think it is. But if you can do that and concentrate on taking in the field what you have done in the nets, it really helps.

The more you find yourself in such situations, do you become more comfortable when you’re in it again?

Definitely. The first time you do something, whether it is in Tests, ODIs or T20s, it is the hardest. If you do it once, it certainly makes you better equipped mentally to handle a similar situation again. Cricket is a game of confidence and currently our team has a lot of it. But having said that, there is still a lot of time left in the tournament.
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