IPL 2024: Two bouncers an over will give bowlers an upper hand, says Delhi Capitals pacer Mukesh Kumar

After a rather disappointing outing in the second Test against England in Visakhapatnam, the 30-year-old returned to the domestic set-up and worked on the areas that were suggested by India’s bowling coach Paras Mhambrey.

Published : Mar 22, 2024 15:49 IST - 8 MINS READ

Mukesh Kumar during a practice session.
Mukesh Kumar during a practice session. | Photo Credit: PTI

Mukesh Kumar during a practice session. | Photo Credit: PTI

Straightforward and realistic are the words that describe Mukesh Kumar aptly. The fast bowler, who has been part of the Indian team since last year, believes that it is important to set ‘smaller targets’ and stay in the present.

After a rather disappointing outing in the second Test against England in Visakhapatnam, the 30-year-old returned to the domestic set-up and worked on the areas that were suggested by India’s bowling coach Paras Mhambrey.

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And as another edition of the Indian Premier League beckons, Mukesh - a key fast bowler for Delhi Capitals - wants to keep the process going and hopes to make the most of the ‘two bouncer per over’ rule that has been implemented from this season.

Q: For the first time, the IPL 2024 will allow bowlers to deliver two bouncers an over. How do you see this decision?

A: It will be of huge help. With the provision of two bouncers, it will keep the batters guessing about when will the bowler come up with his second bouncer, and that way, the bowler can gain some upper hand. After delivering one bouncer, the bowler can play mind games, bluff the batter, and add a bit of variety to his bowling in a bid to puzzle the batter. Usually in T20s, the batters dominate the proceedings, but now, those two deliveries (bouncers) will always be a safety option and a weapon for the bowler. It’s a wonderful move.

Q: Things didn’t quite go your way during the Test series against England, where you featured in just one game and looked off-colour. Taking lessons from that setback, have you set any targets for the IPL?

A: I have set a target for myself, but I would not like to reveal that right away. But in terms of planning, I am looking at achieving smaller goals and not aiming at something huge or unrealistic. After every training session, I write down pointers on whatever I could achieve in that duration and what I need to do going forward. This is something I always do and things are no different this time either. Everyone dreams of becoming the top bowler with maximum wickets or having a huge impact, but I don’t want to follow that route right from the word go. Rather, I would like to achieve those smaller targets so that I stay in the hunt.

The prime focus is to stay fit and become stronger. Over the next few months, there will be lots of high-voltage tournaments and that’s why it is important to be strong and be ready for whatever opportunities come my way.

Q: If you could explain a bit about the significance of setting ‘smaller targets’?

A: It means a lot. If you are looking at bowling four overs, first you need to understand that you can use a fast bowler in various roles. If someone is a swing bowler, you can use him for three overs in the Powerplay and keep one for later, and with a seam bowler, you can utilise him in the middle overs as well as the death, so his role is different. IPL is such a platform, and if one can survive this challenge, then a player can be successful in any other formats.

When we play for India or even at the domestic level, you have eleven players and once a team loses the first two batters early, the bowlers tend to gain the upper hand, but in IPL, it’s the opposite. Here, if a team loses early wickets, toh bowler ko aur maar padti hai, and now with an extra player (Impact player), a little here and there can cost you dearly. So, setting smaller targets helps.

Q: After the England Test series, did you work in any particular area?

A: I had a word with Paras sir (Paras Mhambrey - India’s bowling coach). In the second Test that I played in Visakhapatnam, I could not get that rhythm as my landing feet were not in the correct position, and as a result, I was struggling. So, after the Test, he told me to run a bit wider and suggested quite a few things, which I am working on. In the domestic games also, my aim was not to pick up wickets, but it was about working on those areas that Paras sir suggested. It was a plus point that I got those wickets.

In India, we all know that mostly ‘paata’ (flat decks) are on offer, and it is always a challenge for the fast bowlers. Of course, the seniors like Bumrah (Jasprit Bumrah) bhai are around and with their huge experience, they have been able to make an impact. But for youngsters like us, it’s about taking those disappointments in our strides and hoping to learn from those mistakes.

Q: This time around, Delhi Capitals will play its first couple of home games in Visakhapatnam, and given the fact that there could be more double-headers in the second phase, there would be very little turnaround time. What have been the discussions in the camp regarding this?

A: We will sit down with the coach and the captain and find out what plan they have for me and where they want me to bowl at. Whatever they tell me, I will follow the instructions accordingly. During a match, whatever the captain (Rishabh Pant) tells me from behind the stumps, I will follow those things.

Q: In T20s, clarity of roles is very important. Ahead of the season, has anything been conveyed to you in terms of what the team management expects from you?

A: All the seniors have helped us a lot. You don’t have a fixed role in every game. A lot depends on the wicket as well; if the surface is flat, then my role would be different, similarly, if there’s bounce, we will plan accordingly. So, it is an evolving situation, and they would make it a point to let me know what they expect from me in a particular game. Since Rishabh is a wicketkeeper, he can observe things better and pass on his inputs, and his guidance will help us know whether a batter plans to step out or what his intentions are. Based on the captain’s inputs, it’s up to us to understand the situation and bowl accordingly.

Q: With Pant back as the captain, how much of a boost is it for the team?

A: Last year, we would be bundled out with 10 balls or a couple of overs to spare and there would be situations where we needed 25 or 30 odd runs off 10 balls, which we could not achieve. And in those situations, we genuinely missed Rishabh and we would often talk among ourselves in the dressing room that, ‘yaar, Rishabh hota toh, aaram se 180-185 tak pahoch jaate hum’. And once we put up 20-25 runs less that would automatically have an impact. We lost games against Gujarat Titans and now with Rishabh around, hopefully, we won’t be in such a situation. So, from the team’s perspective, his comeback is a huge boost.

Q: For a fast bowler, how challenging does it get to switch formats in a short span of time?

A: I am a rhythmic bowler, and that’s my everything. If I am in the rhythm, then it does not matter whether you are playing red ball or white ball. But if there’s a niggle or any sort of injury and I still force myself to bowl, the rhythm will be affected and that will have an adverse effect on my performance. So, adaptation is the key, but then, it’s not like aaj red ball khelke, agle din white ball khelne jaana hai. There’s a decent gap in between, and the trainers come up with a load management plan, which helps us in switching formats. We increase our loads step by step before reaching the peak. So, that way, a player can adjust to the conditions and get into the groove.

Q: The next few months will see a lot of cricket - the T20 World Cup, the Sri Lanka series, followed by Tests against New Zealand, Bangladesh before travelling to Australia. Have you thought about it?

A: Everyone wants to be part of the Indian team in a World Cup, but it is important to understand that whoever performs, will make the cut. You have to be realistic about it. It’s not like that if I am not picked, I will go and make faces or be dejected. It does not work that way. We understand that the best 15 or the best 16 will get a chance and personally, I don’t expect too much from anything. Agar main expect kar ke rakhta hoon ke I will be selected, and what if I suffer an injury at that time! Then, it would also lead to heartbreak.

So, it is better to live in the present, keep yourself fit and set smaller targets that help you and your team in the longer run.

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