Former India pacer Venkatesh Prasad was the head coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore in the inaugural season of Indian Premier League. Prasad who got nearly 300 international wickets across Test and ODIs never played a T20 game but as a bowling coach he was part of the Chennai Super Kings and the Kings XI Punjab set-up in past as a bowling coach. The former India bowling coach (from 2007 to 2009) spoke to Moneycontrol recently in Patna on a range of issues related to fast bowling in T20 cricket.
Q: How do you look at the evolution of fast bowling in IPL? Did you ever imagine that pace bowlers would not only survive the onslaught by batters but can hold their own in IPL?
A: You need to have variation and develop those skills. The game itself has been evolving so is pace bowling. Runs are being made at rapid pace in Test cricket and similarly in T20 formats the variations you see in bowling is amazing. Back of the hand, off cutter, off cutter bouncer and then knuckle ball and even the yorker itself has gone into so many variations. Importantly, bowlers have not only survived but have got so many wicket taking deliveries (in their armoury).
Q: Since you just touched upon the subject of wicket-taking skill, how do you see someone like Shardul Thakur’s role in a team who goes for few runs but also picks up crucial wickets?
A: If you can bowl economically well, then fantastic but the game has evolved so much that even if you bowl some good balls, it gets hit. So you need to expect that and respect that and think about how you can bounce back. The T20 (format) is all about how you can come back after getting hit for a four or six. These guys (Shardul) are able to read the situations and know exactly what they should be doing. At times, it doesn’t go your way but you have to be different.
Q: Contrasting style of bowling from Bhuvneshwar Kumar who is extremely economical on the other hand. Which model a youngster should follow?
A: There is no one particular model in cricket you need to understand that. Of course, Bhuvi and Bumrah also look to get wickets but sometimes it happens that they have so much control in their line and lengths so the batsmen also think let’s see them off. Let’s not take too many risks against these bowlers. They try to score off on other bowlers. I will give you example of (Javagal) Srinath. He was very difficult to hit so batsmen would try to take chances against me and I used to pick up wickets because of that reason. It was not that I was a wicket taking bowler. He used to create the pressure. That is how you need to go about as (partners). You need to understand one another. When Bumrah is bowling, everyone is trying not to attack him but it is building pressure in terms of required run rate and they will try to hit someone else like Shardul. If he is smart enough then lot of chances getting wickets.
Q: Bumrah is a complete fast bowler in your book? Or does anyone come closer to Bumrah? Maybe Jofra Archer?
A: Bumrah is a completely different bowler because of his unorthodox action so he’s like (Lasith) Malinga. Bumrah comes like ‘11 o’ clockish’ and not the other side. He is opposite to Malinga and it’s not easy to pick such bowlers. That creates a doubt because a batsman is not sure if the ball is coming into them or pitching straight. So that’s why he is much more successful. And he has got a very good yorker and slower one. But his unique action is helping him actually. It’s a combination of lot of things. You can’t model yourself on him. Everyone has his own actions. It’s very important to understand your weakness and strength.
Q: From the 2016 Under 19 batch, many of the players are now part of Indian team from Rishabh Pant to Washington Sundar. As the head of that selection committee, did you ever imagine such a rapid graduation for these players?
A: They have worked very hard. It’s difficult to say who is really going to make it but you can identify the talent and give them opportunity. We have to give credit to players for working hard on fitness and skills. Yes, you can always fast track them. When I coached the Under 19 team in 2005 which included the likes of Rohit Sharma, (Ravindra) Jadeja, (Cheteshwar) Pujara, Piyush Chawla, (it was same). Obviously, you can suggest to the BCCI that they can be fast tracked into the first-class cricket.
Q: How do you look at someone like T Natarajan’s progress who just comes out of from nowhere and is not overawed by international cricket?
A: It shows that there is a lot of talent in this country and that shows in our bench strength. The (T20) leagues which are conducted by the state associations also give young players a big opportunity. Wherever there is a good structure you can see the talent coming out whether it is Natarajan or Prasidh Krishna (who is from Karnataka and plays for KKR in the IPL). You conduct a lot of tournaments within the state so that best team can be picked. Have those systems in place and talent keep coming. A lot of associations haven’t thought about putting a right system in place. You can follow associations like KSCA, TNCA or Mumbai for those sorts of things. The blueprint is there and you need to adopt that.
Q: As a coach what do want to see in a young bowler. Is it speed, accuracy or temperament?
A: For me the attitude is very important factor. Fast bowlers’ job is not easy because you need to come back every time because you can’t allow the batsmen to dominate you. You have to step up your game the moment you realize that a batsman is trying to dominate you. You got to practice that way in your net sessions.
Q: The best bowling attack in this IPL?
A: There is a good competitive balance within the teams and that’s why auction happens. Every single team is equally balanced and who executes their plan better on a particular day wins the game. Why Mumbai Indians or Chennai Super Kings march ahead (from other teams) is because of the culture they have created. All the players know what is expected from them when you are playing for MI or CSK.
Q: Do you see bowlers only specializing as a new ball bowler or a death over specialist or middle over restrictors in future?
A: What I definitely see is players are going to choose only one format in future. Somebody might just focus on T20 and some only on Test cricket. Opportunity is increasing in T20 with two more teams coming up from the next season in IPL so people will be choosing this format. A lot of things can happen since the game is evolving so fast.
Q: Initially, it appeared that bowlers have no role to play in T20 and now pace bowlers are as important in this format?A:
I never thought pacers are liability in any format! You need fast bowlers and skillful bowlers. Not bits and pieces kind of bowlers but genuine bowlers. Yes, nowadays, you need to be a very good fielder as well besides being a quality pacer. And if you can add few runs with bat that gives you a bit of advantage. I would definitely like to see some of the spinners dominating the format. We are seeing a lot of wrist spinners and not too many off spinners. We need to develop off spinners because I was just thinking after R Ashwin who is the next big off spinner for India? Genuine off spinner who is conservative and orthodox. The next best we have is Sundar, who is quicker through the air and not the traditional off spinner who flights the ball. (Someone who can) fox the batsmen with seam position and turn and bounce and that sort of things like drift. You are not seeing that. So, who is a genuine off spinner after Ashwin is a big question? National Cricket Academy (in Bangalore) has got the responsibility to look for that kind of bowlers.