Abey Kuruvilla took 25 Test wickets and as many in ODIs for India in 1997. But he was capable of more. After his playing days, he became the chairman of the BCCI junior national selection committee, and has seen the likes of Virat Kohli blossom in under-19 cricket. A keen student of the game, Kuruvilla picks out some smart bowlers who have done well in the ICC World Twenty20. About the final, he said: “The wicket will play a part. If it’s a good wicket, we will see a very good final. But if the wicket turns out to be slow and helps the spinners, then England will have the advantage. England has a technically correct batting line-up as well. For the first time, England has chosen a side as per the needs of the tournament.”
The spinners have taken 117 out of the 250 wickets so far. This fact more or less confirms that the teams were prepared for Indian conditions.
Overall, I think the bowlers have done a reasonably good job. At the start of the tournament, the wickets at some venues were affording turn, but as the tournament progressed, it got better. It was good to see a lot of fast bowlers in control of what they were doing. I also think that all the teams picked players to meet the needs of the T20 format. They were very well prepared; one could make this out from the field placements and the bowlers bowling to a plan. With so many T20 leagues happening all over the world (IPL, Caribbean Premier League, Big Bash, T20 leagues in Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa and England), the players have benefitted a lot and got used to the format. So, every team was aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the other teams. If there was a surprise packet, it could have emerged from a newcomer; otherwise every player knew what the other player was capable of.
Who impressed you the most: Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir or Bangladesh’s Mustafizur Rahman?
He (Mustafizur) is not only a very good bowler, but good for the shorter format too. He has a lot of variations like cutters and yorker-length deliveries. Most importantly, he’s a left-arm bowler and very accurate. And, there is no doubt that Mohammad Amir is an outstanding bowler. He is top quality. Even South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada… e will see the best of him in a few years.
What about England’s David Willey and Chris Jordan?
Willey is a genuine swing bowler and an excellent T20 specialist; he has done well in the shortest format in England. If you don’t swing the ball early on in this format, the chances of getting hit are more. He bowls well at the death, and that’s because he’s got the skill to drop pace and send down yorker-length deliveries. Jordan bowls at a good pace, around 138-140 kmph. He has the skill to bowl yorkers too. His main delivery is the one that comes back into the right-hander. He doesn’t give too much width. He has learnt very quickly; he got hammered by South Africa at the Wankhede, but thereafter he has been superb. He has hardly bowled down the leg; all have been within the stumps and at good pace.
Former England T20 captain Paul Collingwood said before the start of the tournament that Eoin Morgan’s team was perhaps the best limited-over side they had chosen in the last 25 years…
If one looks at it closely, England is the most well-balanced team in the competition. It goes into a match with six bowlers, and all six can bowl their full quota of four overs each. And most of them are batsmen as well. Ben Stokes is a regular batsman, Moeen Ali is a top-order batsman, and Jordan can hit the ball too.
What about the West Indies?
I think India played the wrong team in the semifinals. One can never predict what the West Indies will do on the field. But if you look at their players, almost all are match-winners. Even if three in their playing eleven click, that’s enough for the West Indies to win. Their bowling is not at all great, but they have some tremendous strikers of the ball. Previously, the West Indies bowling was unbelievably good; it’s not as good now, but their batting strength compensates for the shortcomings in the bowling department. Any target may look small because of their explosive batting line-up.
There is an exception in leg-spinner Samuel Badree. He’s been a revelation…
Badree has been amazing. Right through his T20 career, he’s bowled in the PowerPlay and generally finishes his quota by the 10th over of the innings. I have rarely seen him get hit. His strength is his accuracy. He bowls quicker through the air. The West Indies is missing off-spinner Sunil Narine. Imagine if he had been in the team; they would have been very difficult to beat. Left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn is trying to fill that slot, but Narine is something else. The bowlers try to restrict the opponents to a low score so that they can chase.
Is that the reason why the West Indies always choose to bowl first?
They will always bowl first. They have the batting depth to chase around 200, but on a slightly slower surface where the ball is turning, then I think a team can hope for an even contest. But on a batting wicket, they can probably chase most targets. Lendl Simmons batted well against India at his Mumbai Indians home ground.
Where did it go wrong for New Zealand against England?
They had a brilliant tournament till the semifinals, but England put up a great show from the 16th to the 20th over. They conceded just 32 runs in the last five overs, and it’s during this phase that New Zealand lost the game. The spinners (Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi) bowled well, and most importantly took wickets. New Zealand chose its bowling personnel according to the conditions. Probably, Corey Anderson was not the right choice to open the bowling when England began the chase, and against Jason Roy who gave a flying start.
How would you rate the Indian bowling attack?
I think Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah were outstanding. Among the spinners, (Ravichandran) Ashwin started off well and probably he did not get enough help from the wicket in the latter part. The dew also did not help matters in the semifinal. I think India should have gone in with an extra bowler on a good batting wicket at the Wankhede, probably Mohammad Shami or Harbhajan Singh. It went in batting-heavy with Ravindra Jadeja at No. 7. I don’t think it needed eight batsmen on a Wankhede wicket.
Has Nehra surprised you by his fitness?
When he came into the side the first time, all of us knew he was a good bowler, skill-wise. But injuries probably cut short his career. Now, he looks very fit and has the skill and experience as well. He’s been outstanding in the tournament.
Bumrah has started off well for India…
He has the potential, and if he continues to be free of injuries, he could become one of the top fast bowlers. He’s got a different and very effective action. I thought he bowled well in the semis; many of his boundary shots were edges. I think from now on, he should know what he is doing and should get better with his own skills. He should make fewer errors. No one should try to tinker with his natural bowling. If he’s fit, he will be an asset for India.
How much can dew affect the team bowling second? Dhoni and Shane Warne said the dew made it difficult for India.
It makes a lot of difference. There is a disadvantage in two ways. One, it becomes difficult for a spinner to grip the ball and therefore to spin the ball, and secondly, the ball, instead of gripping and turning, skids through. And this makes things easy for the batsmen. But one has to accept that the West Indies played better cricket. They did not panic under pressure. The dew alone cannot be blamed for the result which went against India.