Talking to coach, Joe Dawes, about his bowling wards sometimes feels like chatting with a father about his sons – and not only because he often refers to a young bowler as ‘kid’. His current stint of over two years with Team India and a couple of IPL seasons with Kings XI Punjab have made the Australian rather attached to the fast bowling talent in India.
You can sense pride in his voice when he speaks of an Indian bowler who consistently clocks 140 kph, and his quick quashing of a suggestion to throw a young and upcoming bowler into the depths of international cricket, borders on possessiveness.
We, at IPLT20.com, caught up with KXIP’s bowling coach and got him to talk about two of the most exciting pacers in the team – Sandeep Sharma and Parvinder Awana. Here’s what we got: Sandeep Sharma
Sandeep has been a revelation this IPL season. What is your overall view of him?
He’s a great kid. I want everyone to remember that he is only 21! But he’s shown really great signs and he swings the ball, which is a great characteristic to have. Although he’s still learning, he’s quite a clever kid, in that he knows what he wants to do. He doesn’t execute it all the time, but he does have a clear picture of what he wants to do, in his mind. Those are great traits that will hold him in good stead as he holds in his body a little bit. I am sure he will grow into being a good fast bowler.
Swing his main weapon. What do you think he should develop in his bowling to get purchase in conditions that don’t allow the ball to swing?
He’s not the fastest bowler running around and he’ll need to develop his pace. But that will come as he grows in age and body. When it doesn’t swing, he’s got to learn to hit the wicket and just be consistent with his lines and lengths, which he knows and is working hard on. We have seen it is often hard for an Indian fast bowler to maintain top pace even if he manages to develop it.
I think there’s a big tendency here to over-bowl. I was talking to Anureet Singh the other day and he said that he averages 45 overs a game in the Ranji Trophy. There are over nine games with a three-day break in between. That’s a lot for the body to take and maintain a speed of 140-145 kph. It’s just physically impossible to do. If you want to become a fast bowler and a strike bowler, you should bowl less and maybe bowl at a higher pace and concentrate more on quality than quantity. But then again, you bowl when the captain asks you and the team needs you to bowl. It’s a tough position for them to be in, and like any bowler, you can’t take wickets if you don’t bowl at your best. It will be nicer to find that balance where they’re not bowling too much, but when they do bowl, they’re bowling at their top pace.
Sandeep has always been a new-ball bowler. Are you working on helping him develop his skills with the old ball?
In the IPL, it’s really tough to do that since it’s just a short little window. You’re in competition mode all the time and you’re playing all the time. So, you don’t want to confuse anyone because every other day is another game and you just want the players to be in a good mental frame for each game. All I try to tell him is to hit the deck hard – you can still swing the ball if you hit the deck hard rather than just float it up. He’s working hard at it and that is the focus right now. It’s a big test for a guy who bowls at his pace and depends a lot on swing. Now that he has been taking early wickets, batsmen have started to come with plans against him and he’s getting a bit more respect. Since they have started to figure him out, the onus is on him to keep developing skills to be one-up.
How far before you think he’ll be ready for international cricket?
Oh, that’s a long way off for him. He’s only 21; just let him learn and develop his craft at this level. As you said, he still has to learn what to do when the ball isn’t swinging. His first-class record is really good and that means he can bowl well even in not so helpful conditions. But let’s not race kids into international cricket just because they have taken a couple of wickets in the IPL.
You must have seen quite a bit of him now. What do you make of him as a bowler?
I love Awana! I was there when he made his international debut (T20I against England in 2012). It’s a shame because he played only a couple of T20Is and hasn’t played for India after that. It is a tough format to make your debut because if you don’t start the way you like, you just play catch-up for the rest of the time. He will admit that he got carried away with a bit of nerves.
Where do you think he needs to improve the most?
He tends to slip back a bit at times because of the amount of bowling he does and we need to get him back to top gear. He has shown that he can hit the 140-145 kph mark consistently, he can hit the deck hard and he has a nice, simple action. I really do hope that he gets another crack at the international level because he deserves another chance to do himself and his talent justice.
He’s a rare Indian pacer who depends more on pace than swing and variation. Do you adopt more Australian coaching methods with him than the Indian ones?
Yes, because he is a hit-the-wicket bowler, we mainly talk about his lengths and hitting the area as hard as possible and not just putting it there. All he needs to learn is to keep coming strong all the time and not slip into that survival mode from bowling all the overs in domestic cricket. He has to make sure that he’s always bowling at his top pace.
He is a bit injury prone. What do you think he should do to protect his body from avoidable injuries?
He’s come out of that phase where the body is developing, the growth plates are at work, the bones get locked off and the body gets harder. Hopefully, that will assist him in keeping injuries at bay. The difference between the Indian and say, the Australian fast bowlers is that the Aussies are stronger but the Indians are more flexible and so their bodies can deal with the muscle stress. He just needs to do the proper work in gym, get stronger and be clever with the amount of bowling he does. He doesn’t have to bowl for an hour everyday in the nets. He just has to bowl fast; bowl less but fast. While training, train to be a fast bowler, not to be a medium pacer. The rest of the things, like adapting to the wickets and developing variations, will come if he just sticks with quality.