Langeveldt: Two bouncers an over makes a big difference

"It’s difficult to set up a batsman (in T20s). It’s not like Test cricket where you can bowl four stumps and angle one back. It’s more like you need to be able to bluff and you can only bluff with a field change."

South African bowling coach Charl Langeveldt emphasises on the importance of bowling yorkers.   -  K. R. Deepak

During his heyday, Charl Langeveldt was South Africa’s primary death bowler. Reputed for possessing a lethal yorker, Langeveldt even featured in the Proteas’ maiden T20 international in 2005.

A decade later, Langeveldt has succeeded Allan Donald as the team’s pace bowling coach. He opened up on the art of pace bowling in Twenty20 and much more.

Excerpts:

How has it been working with a bunch of talented pace bowlers?

It’s been good. I have enjoyed it since I have started. It’s a good challenge because T20 cricket is challenging all the time. Trying to upscale a bowler with different skills. Trying to keep him calm when he is under pressure. It’s all about taking him through, making sure he has got a clear thought process at the back of his mind.

How much has T20 cricket evolved over the last decade?

It has evolved a lot. Guys are using bigger bats now. They are hitting the ball a lot further than they used to. Switch hits and reverse and all this. Guys are playing 360-degrees now, a guy like AB (de Villiers) does it at the back end of an innings, that makes it even more difficult for a bowler.

How much has bowling in T20 evolved?

Bowling hasn’t really evolved but the guys are under a lot more pressure, I think. When it comes down to bowling, it’s the guy that stays calm in a situation and the guy that probably adapts quicker stands out.

Is adaptability the only requisite to be a good T20 bowler?

I think he needs to have all the variations. First of all he needs to land his yorker. If he can bowl good yorkers, that’s a plus point. But the game has evolved so much that you can’t just bowl yorkers, you need to mix it up in an over. Like three yorkers and two slower balls, bouncers maybe. The yorker is still important but variations like change of pace is also important.

How different is bowling in T20s from bowling in ODIs?

Twenty20 is a lot harder than 50 overs. 50 overs now has become better because you have got two new balls, so up front you can take more wickets. You have got two bouncers allowed in an over; two bouncers makes a big difference. Guys can’t just come on the front foot; they are still on the back of the edge, thinking about a bouncer, so two bouncers help a lot.

Can a bowler really set up a batsman in T20s?

It’s difficult to set up a batsman. It’s not like Test cricket where you can bowl four stumps and angle one back. It’s more like you need to be able to bluff and you can only bluff with a field change. Say you change the field and make it look like you’re going to bowl a short ball and still bowl a yorker. That’s probably the only way you can set up a batsman.

Does that mean T20 bowling is nothing but death bowling in ODIs?

Yeah, the other day (against Afghanistan) we had to bowl yorkers in the first six overs because the wicket was so good. It makes it a lot more difficult when you play on such good surfaces.

You were a death overs specialist. How can a bowler master the art of death bowling?

I think it’s just repetition. Everyone’s release point is different. I think it’s up to the bowler to put in the work. It’s probably difficult to teach him how to bowl a yorker, but the more he practises, the repetitions, the more the guy bowls it... If you look at the guys who have been successful, it looks like they have put in extra effort. You look at a guy like Bumrah, it looks like he has nailed it. You look at a guy like Malinga. It just boils down to repetitions and muscle memory.

So as a coach, do you only stress on target-hitting?

We try to simulate a match situation where we put him under pressure. When you bowl at a target, you are not under pressure so we try and mix it up. Target bowling is important but when he sees a batsman in a real-match scenario, it’s a bit different.

What is it like being the bowling coach of a T20 team?

It’s hard. Especially the last game when they (England) chased down 230. The guys were down in the dressing room, so you have to support them. Still confirm to a guy that he’s a terrific bowler; you have to try and pick the players up than bring them down.

How do you handle someone like Rabada who has been taken for runs ever since the warm-up games?

It’s just to re-ensure him that what he is doing is right. Sometimes when you play on a good wicket and on a night you don’t execute well, if you look too much into it, you confuse a bowler. In a tournament, it’s difficult to change a lot. You want to keep it simple because what he has been doing, he has been doing it for a while. Because the last ten games, he has been brilliant so you try and stay out of his space but also, it’s a lot about encouraging, making sure he is good. When it comes down to practice, you ensure that he practises what he has practised before. Not to change a lot, just keep it as simple as possible.

Old-timers say something’s amiss with cricket: fast bowlers are bowling slower and spinners are bowling quicker. What’s your take?

I think that the game has evolved. The fast bowlers must come up with different plans and it’s also got to do with the surfaces. If you look at it, it is true. The quicker bowlers are mixing up a lot more and the spinners are darting the ball, they are bowling a lot quicker.

What can be done to restore the balance of the game since it seems to be too lopsided in the batsmen’s favour?

I think in the first six, you can probably have an extra fielder out; three would make it a bit easier for the bowlers. When you just have two fielders outside the circle and you’re playing on a good surface, it’s difficult to defend. If you can have an extra guy on the fence, it would help. And obviously, two bouncers an over. If you have that, the guy can’t just stand and whack because if you have two bouncers, it makes it difficult to just come down the wicket and hit you over the top.

You spoke about the need to have an extra fielder in the deep. Do you really need a Powerplay in T20s?

It’s still good, makes things more exciting. But as I said, an extra fielder outside the circle will give the bowlers a bit more leniency. He can have an extra guy and just say, "I can either defend on the leg side or force him to play in another area." At the moment, even if a batsman mishits and it clears the inner area, it goes for four.

Would it help if a bowler is allowed to bowl five or six overs?

I still feel four is fair. If you allow an extra over to the best bowler, I don’t think it’s fair. I will keep it at four, with three fielders on the boundary and two bouncers.