Hitting the right lengths and line consistently is the key to bowling in T20 which is what one can see in Jasprit Bumrah. The young fast bowler has been impressive in a short span of time. What makes him impactful is his disciplined bowling and use of variations.
Here is a fast bowler who has been really quick, has a short run up, a different bowling action but very effective and that really matters. Bumrah always had something special. He is different, especially in the shortest format. In any format you need to have something different to be effective and more so in the shorter formats, like Lasith Malinga, who is different and has something special.
The other important aspect is skill and Bumrah is excellent in that area too. He can consistently bowl yorkers at a very effective pace, which is great because when that works, it puts the team in a good position. As a team you need someone to finish the game for you by bowling well in the death overs and he can do that. Death overs has always been a problem area and here is a bowler who looks like an option for that. He is someone who can bowl 140 plus; has variations that he can execute during the death overs and is an intelligent bowler. He isn’t someone who just comes in and bowls fast, but uses good variations which makes him very difficult to negotiate and with the kind of action that he has, it is difficult to pick the slower one which we saw against New Zealand.
While working with the bowlers in the nets and while preparing for the T20 format, the focus is to break the drills in to two sets – bowling with the new ball and during the death overs. With the new ball you work on bowling the proper lengths which is as important as proper line. Also the ability to swing the ball is important and while doing that the bowler should be able to control the swing for him to be effective. As a fast bowler you are definitely going to bowl in the death overs so preparation is very important.
However, the death overs have always been a problem since they can shift the momentum either way. It can make the difference between a win and a loss. While practicing for the death overs one has to work on the yorkers as well. Maybe different lines of the yorkers like - on to the stumps, just outside the off-stump and obviously the slower one because in this format, the bowler cannot afford to be predictable. As a bowler, one has to have the ability like a Malinga and Bumrah to bowl good yorkers and execute them well. Adding variations gives different dimensions to one’s bowling making it effective.
I think Bumrah has got the right ingredients that one looks for in a fast bowler – pace, intelligence to mix-up the variations judiciously and the skill to execute them. It is difficult task and I am happy to see that he is doing it.
While working with a bowler with a unique action, the best approach is not to get technical with him. The coach needs to work with the ingredients that are available and just polish them. If you try and mentor too much by trying to make technical changes, there is a possibility that the bowler might lose his way and struggle. The bowler may lose that uniqueness as well. As a coach one has to work around that and also work on the fitness for him to be able to sustain the workload at the international level. Minor adjustments here and there are fine, but I don’t think such bowlers should be touched.
When Bumrah came to Mumbai Indians, he was very young and very raw. He always had a very different action so the batsmen would find it difficult to pick him in the nets. He came with the run up that he had; people never thought that he would be able to generate such pace and be much sharper than the other guys around. What worked for him was consistently hitting the right length. He has that very nasty kind of in-swinging delivery that comes in and troubles the right-handed batsman. With left-handers that angle is always difficult to negotiate. The focus is on getting the lengths and lines right for his kind of bowling. And the credit should go to him as well for working on his skills diligently.
For the coach it is about being able to guide him about the lengths that he should be bowling. The whole idea was to encourage him to get the variations right. The off break variation is kind of a recent development. This is something which with the action that he has is very difficult to pick. The focus (at the time) was to get him to work on variations and also the consistency aspect like slightly outside the off-stump line, shortish – not exactly a driveable length, but if the ball swings in from there it is difficult for the batsman to get it away. In the twenty20 format, you look to cramp the batsman for space, you don’t want to give room and that’s what the whole challenge is and that is what was worked on with him in the early days.
Helping the bowlers develop variations is where practice comes in. Not everyone can execute every kind of delivery so it is important to be aware of who can bowl which type of delivery and work on them in the nets accordingly. It is about analyzing what a particular bowler will be able to execute. For example - not everyone can bowl the back-of-the-hand slower-one, so we need to access with his kind of bowling action what would be a good and effective option to bowl. He can then go ahead and work on it during practice to make sure that the bowler can execute that at will and is confident enough to bowl that in a match.
The ability to judiciously use the variations comes with practice and experience. A lot of trial and error is involved. One has to be open to different ideas as to be able to survive in the T20 format. One has to keep working on newer things. One might have the ability to bowl the right deliveries, but you also need to have the awareness as to when to bowl them and that will come with trial and error. Understanding of the situation is critical. A bowler needs to start thinking and anticipating the situations and work his way through it.
The mental aspect is as important as the skills part. The margin for error is less so for a bowler an economy below six is fantastic or even seven is acceptable. The performance has to be looked at in its entirety. The format is also such that the batsman is going to be innovative to negotiate the different kind of deliveries so one has to understand and accept that results will not be always in your favour. However, if the game plan has been executed then the bowler should be happy and as a coach you have to reinforce that. It is pertinent to be realistic and be aware. While analyzing the performance every delivery matters.
The significance of a dot ball is more in this format than any other. So while analyzing the performance the no of dot balls bowled has to be considered and the focus should be on bowling as many of them as possible.
The one thing that I focus on is encouraging a bowler to back himself. It’s all about confidence. If you have planned something, focus on it and execute it. I think this format is all about that. To believe that you will deliver is extremely important because of the pressure you are under and the margin of error being very less.