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Parvinder Awana is not your regular Indian pace bowler. For starters, touching the 140 kph mark on the speedometer is not a rarity for him; it’s a norm. Secondly, unlike most of his peers, who earn their bread by swinging the ball, Awana’s strength lies in the seaming ball. And last but not the least, for Awana, bowling at 140-plus is not synonymous to bowling short. He realises the importance of bowling quick and full without getting carried away with the purchase off the wicket and his own ability to bowl fast.
This 27-year-old pacer, who was a lynchpin of the KXIP attack in the last IPL, has struggled to get game-time this season, with only four matches under his belt so far. His last outing was against DD in Mohali, where he walked off the field with awesome figures of 3-1-15-2.
In a rather honest chat with IPLT20.com, Awana revealed his struggles in the initial part of the tournament this year and how he overcame them. He also hoped he can do enough in the remaining matches to get a look-in by the national selectors.
Here are excerpts from his interview:
You set the tone for the game with your control over your length with the new ball; you had Kevin Pietersen pretty comfortably.
I bowl my best when I pitch the ball on good length, since I can get the ball to seam around. Against KP, my plan was to hit the pitch as hard as I can and maintain that length. Has this been a mixed season for you – the team has done so well but you haven’t played many games?
Yes, I played two games in the UAE where the team won but I went for plenty of runs – which most of our bowlers did. Then, I didn’t get a chance for many matches because the new guys were performing so consistently and it made sense to stick with the same team. Then, I got one more game against KKR in Cuttack where I picked one wicket. I was awaiting another chance where I could prove my mettle, and I got it today, at the right time, I think.
You are different from most Indian bowlers as you depend more on pace than swing and variations. Does it benefit you having two Aussies – Joe Dawes and Mitchell Johnson – around?
Absolutely! I have been talking a lot to them. To be honest, my pace had gone down during the initial part of the tournament and I wasn’t putting as much effort as I needed to. That’s when Joe Dawes sat me down and reminded me what I am capable of. I think I swayed away a bit from my basics and got into the relaxed mode. By making me sit out for a few matches, he gave me the kick I needed and pushed me to get right what I am known for. I told the captain (George Bailey) that in the time I sat out, I have worked on my pace and I think I’m there again. And it’s good to have performed the way I did today.
Have you picked anything in particular from Johnson?
I speak a lot to him about pace. I asked him what he does to keep his pace up on a consistent basis. He asked me to just keep working on my fitness. He said, ‘If you are capable of bowling between 140 and 145, you will not get to 150 no matter how hard you work on your bowling or fitness. But if you ignore your physical fitness, your pace will slip.
Dawes told me he really hopes you come back into the Indian team soon. Is that a target you are eyeing with the England tour coming up?
I am very much eyeing the England tour. In fact, only last night, I was jokingly telling Joe Dawes that we have three matches left in this IPL and let me play all of them. I’ll take five wickets in each game and book a seat on that plane for England. But seriously, it was my target coming into this IPL to showcase my skills and fitness and try to make an India comeback.
As someone who has seen him from close quarters, what do you think is the secret of Sandeep Sharma’s success this year?
I know him really well – we play together at the domestic level and I have been with him at KXIP for two years now. He’s a very good boy. He’s very hard working and stays very serious on the field. He has proved his worth and is still improving. This season, the swing bowlers have done really well – guys like Sandeep and Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar). They have really set the base for their teams with early wickets, which has benefitted us a lot.
Is he working on anything particular?
He has been working really hard on his death bowling in the nets. Besides that, he does a lot of work in the gym with our trainer on getting stronger and getting his pace up a bit. If he continues to do that, he will become a good fast bowler by the time he’s 24-25.
Akshar Patel is a skinny, shy boy from Anand, a small town of Gujarat, the state he also plays cricket for. This left-arm spinning all-rounder, who created a quite the reputation for himself in the 2013-14 Indian domestic season, was awarded the Best U-19 Cricketer of the Year by BCCI. But he was still an unknown entity when it came to the masses.
Not anymore. With 14 wickets in as many matches at a parsimonious economy rate of 6.48 in the group stage of Pepsi IPL 2014, Akshar has been a big contributor to Kings XI Punjab’s journey to the Playoffs.
After yet another fine performance (4-0-28-2), in KXIP’s last league game, against Delhi Daredevils, Akshar reflected on his recent success in a chat with IPLT20.com. He spoke about his bowling game plan that has earned him the kind of success that has surpassed everyone’s expectations. Here are excerpts from his interview:
This season has been a dream for you. What’s the secret?
It has. I accept my limitations and work on my strengths. My coaches and captain have given me complete freedom, which has been a very strong platform for me to perform. Last year, when I was with Mumbai Indians, I didn’t get a chance to play. This year, it’s good to get so many chances and me proving that I deserved them. You had a great domestic season coming into the IPL that culminated with the BCCI award for the best U-19 cricketer.
It is the best phase of my career. The performances I put up at the domestic level gave me so much confidence, which I carried into this IPL. The way I have performed here has added to that confidence, mainly because I have also been able to maintain a good economy rate, which is a tough thing to do for a spinner in this format.
How have you maintained such great economy rate (6.60)?
There is always that fear of getting hit for long sixes. But I mainly try to stick to my strength of bowling the arm-ball and the quicker one. I don’t look to spin the ball or try different variations; I only concentrate on bowling a good arm-ball.
How different is your use of the arm-ball in T20s and first-class cricket?
There is a difference. In T20, the focus is more on bowling dot-balls and that’s why I use the arm-ball more often. In four-day matches, I have to try different variations, bowl slower and try to spin the ball more often, probably slipping on one arm-ball in an over. In a T20 game, since I have only four overs, I want to use my best ball as often as I can so I don’t give away too many runs. Once I do that, the wickets will come.
As a spinner, how do you react when you’re hit for a couple of big shots? Do you stick to plan A or jump to plan B?
I speak a lot to Joe Dawes about this. With him, I make a plan and a backup plan for each batsman. If I get hit for a six, I’ll see if it was a bad ball from me or a good shot from him. If I know I bowled according to the plan, I won’t bother too much and stick to it. In any format, if the batsman plays a good shot, he will get runs and you have to accept that.
How fierce is the competition in the KXIP camp for the Pepsi Emerging Player of the year award? You, Maxwell, Sandeep and Miller – all are nominated.
There is tough competition for the award, yes. I believe this little competition has helped us build a strong camaraderie within the team. The fact that we have so many young players in the race for the emerging player award also adds to the confidence of our team. After all, it shows how well and consistently we have been performing. Who is winning it right now?