In a recent Twitter interaction with his fans, former South Africa pace ace Dale Steyn had admitted that the most misunderstood part about a fast bowler in the age of T20s is the mental strain. Having featured in several T20s in his long and illustrious career, Steyn understands what a bowler goes through in the shortest format of the game as there is very little time to bounce back and regroup.
“I just felt that maybe the pressure of bowling 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 (by Rahul Tewatia) and you lost the game,” Steyn told Sportstar , drawing reference to the IPL group league fixture between Gujarat Titans and Punjab Kings, where Tewatia’s sixes in the last over off Odean Smith guided Gujarat to victory.
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And, in such times, it is important to back the bowler, who has just lost the battle on the field. “You do 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.”…” the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling coach added.
While a bowler gets sufficient time for self assessment in the longer format, that’s not quite the case in T20s. “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 game is a batter’s game, and in most times, you feel under pressure because you are hit for sixes and fours, and you end up conceding 10 runs in an over…” he said.
“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 a four-wicket maiden (three wickets and a run out), so it’s a strange game. But I think mental strain on the bowlers can be a bit tough…”
So, at times, when a youngster like Umran gets hit for a few sixes and fours, what does a bowling coach tell him so that the bowler can regroup?
“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,” he said.
“You can bowl to (Liam) 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 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…”