Dale Steyn credits IPL for India's pace revolution

In a conversation with Sportstar, Dale Steyn talks about India’s fast bowling revolution, the role of the Indian Premier League and the road ahead for young pacer Umran Malik.

Pace ace: Being one of the most successful seamers of his time, Dale Steyn is happy to see a gradual development in India’s pace bowling, especially young Umran Malik.   -  Sunrisers Hyderabad

The art of fast bowling has seen a sea change in Indian cricket. From a time when the spinners would dominate, Indian cricket has seen the rise of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami. Then, there are youngsters like Umran Malik waiting in the wings, making it a habit to clock 150 kmph-plus regularly.

Dale Steyn, one of the most successful seamers of his time, is happy to see a gradual development in India’s pace bowling. The former South African pace ace, who is now the fast bowling coach of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League, has been working closely with Umran — one of India’s most talked-about pacers. He believes that the youngster from Jammu will soon play international cricket for India, but the onus will be on the Indian cricket ecosystem to see how it handles the promising young pacer.

In a conversation with Sportstar, Steyn talks about India’s fast bowling revolution, the role of the IPL and the road ahead for Umran.

How do you assess Sunrisers’ bowling line-up this season? The fast bowling department looks sorted with Umran Malik around…

Yeah, everybody is happy. Everybody has clear roles as to what they have to do. So, clarity is great. They have got a good game plan that they have put in place — they have game plan A, B and C. In case they are in trouble, they have options to get out of the trouble. And, they also have wicket-taking options, which is all you want from a bowling unit. The guys are well prepared and they are fantastic players — that’s all you can ask for. You just hope things go your way, which has been working so far.

Think-tank: Sunrisers Hyderabad’s team management comprising Dale Steyn, Brian Lara, Hemang Badani and Muttiah Muralitharan believes in giving full freedom to the players to express themselves on the field.   -  Sportzpics / BCCI

 

What has been your conversation with Umran? The other day, we saw you giving a pat on Muttiah Muralitharan’s back after Umran got a wicket. He has been consistent and effective. So what are the areas that you’re working on with Umran?

Not much really, I think the more he plays, the more he gets better. He’s figuring his skills out there on the field. I think he’s led by Kane (Williamson) really well. We have made 100 per cent sure that there’s somebody next to him that he can have a conversation with if he finds himself in a difficult position.

READ: Where does Umran Malik go from here?

So, we’ve tried to structure it that way. When he’s bowling we have somebody like Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) or Nattu (T. Natarajan) very close to him, like middle for mid-on, or even Kane, so that they can speak to him. But overall, I just think that everybody has been given the freedom to express themselves and play in the manner in which they feel is best suited to them. So that’s started at the top from Tom (Moody) to Brian (Lara) — all are doing that. The same with the batters. And I think the whole management — Hemang (Badani) has been fantastic with the fielders. That’s the message to the players — let them do it. Let them do what they have to do.

READ: Youngsters redefining the art of bowling fast in India

In your playing days, India was considered more of a spin-dominated team. But over the last few years, so many pacers have come up in the system. Why do you think that has happened?

I think if you look at it, the IPL has come around, it’s been around for 10 years (14 years) I suppose. And with the IPL comes fantastic players. So you’ve got your Brett Lee, in the early days Shoaib Akhtar was here, you can go through Mitchell Starc, Kagiso Rabada you can go through all the ranks of the fast bowlers. When you’ve got the IPL — let’s not forget, it’s the Indian Premier League — you know the Indians playing here have more of a connection now to something different, as opposed to just watching Indian spin bowlers, who were fantastic in the past — Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.

Now, they’ve got these other heroes that they can rub shoulders with in the dressing room. When you’ve got so many IPL teams, there’s a lot more to enjoy and watch. So, maybe just the IPL being a competition that invites overseas players has made local players that much more interested in bowling fast and they (must have) felt like this way they can potentially make a career, rather than just bowling spin.

And I think that’s where you see the guys like Bumrah and Deepak Chahar and Umran Malik and Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Nattu and all of these guys. I can string all of them — Mohammed Siraj from RCB — you can string all these names. I think just rubbing shoulders with players of the highest calibre over the years has made them better and we’ve seen Mohammed Shami. We’ve seen the Indian team really benefit from that and do really well away from home with the seam bowlers.

Handle with care: Steyn believes that Umran Malik will soon play international cricket for India, but the onus will be on the Indian cricket ecosystem to see how it handles the promising young pacer.   -  Sportzpics / IPL

 

Many feel that Umran should be drafted into the Indian team soon. Do you think that it is time to do so?

I am just trying to pat him on the shoulder and really encourage him when he bowls well — to stick to the things that he is doing well, and try and create forward thinking for him, so that he learns the tools of the trade when he is bowling. If he feels he’s under pressure, he can develop a particular delivery and get himself out of the situation. These are the things that myself, Bhuvi, Nattu and Tom work with him.

Umran will play international cricket, there is no doubt in my mind about that. He bowls at 150kmph consistently, and nobody else is doing that in the world right now. May be Lockie Ferguson is the other guy who does it, but they are very different bowlers. But from an Indian point of view, he is the only guy that consistently bowls over 145-150kmph every single ball, so he will play for India. But how India manages him is completely up to them.

I just let him play, and he is learning his trade by the day.

Over the last few years, a lot of youngsters are generating pace and clocking 145-150kmph regularly. How has that happened? Is there an IPL hand to it as well?

Having heroes now and looking at how India goes about its business, you see a lot of youngsters who walk into the path of being a fast bowler. About eight years ago, there was a game where I was watching India bowl and one of my favourite bowler was Ishant Sharma. He took the new ball in the 81st over of the second innings — the game was in Delhi and the track was spinning a little bit. That kind of thing, I felt, did not send a very good or positive message to Indian quick bowlers, because it was like if you are going to play for India, you are only going to bowl in the 81st over, when the second new ball is taken.

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But I think things have changed since then with a lot more young fast bowlers coming in and India relies on its pace attack to do well outside the country or even in India. I remember South Africa struggled last time it toured India and it was not the spinners but the pacers that got them out. So, it’s given the youngsters hope that they can make a career as a fast bowler. That’s why you see guys trying to bowl at 145kmph/150kmph-plus, because if they can’t bowl that, they are not going to get into the team ahead of a Bumrah or a Shami.

Do you agree that over the years, the Indian pitches have also changed a bit?

The pitches are wonderful. We are watching these games and they are great. Every game has something to offer for the seamers in the first six overs, the spinners have come into the game and we have seen Yuzi (Yuzvendra) Chahal getting the Purple Cap. The wickets are really good, and we have also seen batters scoring hundreds, with a strike rate of 200-plus. We have seen Liam Livingstone doing that the other day. We have seen fantastic bowlers, but my hats off to the curators. I think they have done a great job and they have kept this competition really interesting. There has been something in the wicket for everybody and that’s something you want from a cricket pitch — you don’t want to be dominated by one facet, be it bat or ball.

Recently on Twitter, you stated that the most misunderstood part about a fast bowler in the age of T20s is the mental strain. Could you elaborate?

They are different for anybody. I just felt that, may be, the pressures of bowling and the mental strain that goes into it is different to batters. In batting, you can get one ball and you are out. But as a bowler, I watched someone like Chris Jordan bowl and it’s difficult. Odean Smith, the other night, did try to run a guy out (against Gujarat Titans) and the next deliveries went for sixes and the side lost the game.

You sit with that as a bowler and that kind of mental strain and at that time, having good people and having good support around you is important. They can tap on your shoulder and say, “it’s gonna be okay. The sun will come up tomorrow and you will have another chance. You are a fantastic player; you don’t become a bad player through one game.” But the difficulty with bowling in T20s is that you have got 24 legal deliveries, which means there are 24 opportunities for someone to hit you out of the ground, especially if the wickets are good. You need to find a way to look at it about how to go ahead, maybe 24 balls are an opportunity to take a wicket, but this is a batter’s game, and in most times, you are under pressure because you are hit for sixes and fours, and you end up conceding 10 runs in an over.

But then, those things can also change and you saw someone like Umran Malik getting hit for one of the biggest sixes and then, in the next over, he gets four-wickets maiden, so it’s a strange game. But I think mental strain on the bowlers can be a bit tough.

At times, when a youngster, say for instance Umran, gets hit for a few sixes and fours, what does a bowling coach tell him?

From a bowling point of view, you need to go to the guys and say to them, “you plan to bowl a specific delivery, and that’s all you can do.” Whatever the batter does is completely out of your control. I can’t tell you what batters can do, neither can I tell you what the weather is going to be like this afternoon, those things are completely uncontrollable. You can bowl to Livingstone and get hit for a six, but in the very next ball, you can bowl a similar delivery and block him. You can’t be caught up with the end result. Just keep doing whatever you do, there will be a dip, then you will be successful and all you need is to find a balance. People hit sixes, fours — that’s part of the game.

Sunrisers Hyderabad has a good chance of making it to the playoffs. How did the team bounce back after defeats in the first two games?

In the first two games, we needed to get out there and get the cobwebs out. We have a young team that we put together in the auction and some of the guys hadn’t even met each other before. That’s how IPL has worked, you often get together a couple of days before the start of the tournament and you need to create some kind of magic. That’s what’s happening. That’s where the management needs to take full ownership and responsibility on how we are going to get these guys to blend and gel best so that we can see what they do best on the field. That’s the management’s job. We didn’t have a great first game, but in the second game, we saw some sort of improvement. And guys just wanted to get better and then we won the third game. We played better thereon. The mood is happy, we have got a great group of guys. Everyone gets along well. We don’t harp too much about it, we just do our training, have a good time, we talk simply with sound plans. Then, we get into the game and say, “boys, it’s up to you. Have a good time, express yourselves and be on the ball. And watch the captain — the most important thing…”

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