‘You should be able to take a wicket at all stages of the inning’

After consecutive defeats at the start of their 2022 IPL campaign, Sunrisers Hyderabad embarked on a string of five winning games. Unlike teams that have built their unit around hitting, the Sunrisers have a pedigree bowling attack, mostly Indian. Tom Moodytheir head coach, who has been by the side most of their time in the IPL, explains what went into making their attack.

Over the years, Sunrisers ’core bowling alley has been largely Indian. Was that one of the big areas of focus?
A lot of people over the years in T20 cricket have recognized that the 120 balls you defend are absolutely vital. I’ve always had a philosophy to make sure you have the ability to play wickets in all three phases of your innings. With this in mind, it would be ideal to be able to provide Indian talent to fulfill these roles.

As with any specific role in the team, you need to look at the supply and demand of what is available and make your judgment under pressure on auction day. So, it was easy for us to meet a few players that we brought back to the 2022 team. Someone like Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar], who has done so much over a long period of time in IPL and India, we believe he has many more years to do with his specific skills, and that is to be able to bowl what I would call game frames. And then you have Natta [T Natarajan] who grew and grew like a mature fast bowler, getting better and better. Yes, he had a slight hiccup due to injury, but he’s not the first fast bowler to go through it.

Natarajan evolved as this on-demand yorkie expert. Was there always one?
We knew him as an expert on Yorkers from Tamil Nadu, and he had success in the T20 league [TNPL] down there. But in his first few years with us at Sunrisers there was a significant gap between [his performances] in home cricket and IPL, but all credit to him for working extremely hard on his skills and the physical side of speed bowling. He continued to hone and hone those skills he obviously had in the beginning. He just needed to sharpen them a little more to ensure that consistency at the IPL level and internationally.

Some players can make upward adjustments and deliver their natural strength at the highest level; others find it difficult. Nattu is getting better and better at perfecting his skill and remains committed and authentic to the one who is like a fast bowler. He didn’t try anything, but he was perfect at what he was really good at. In the T20 format, bowlers of his caliber are very rare.

You have supported many Indian fast bowlers – Khaleel Ahmed, Basil Thampi, Sandeep Sharma, Bhuvneshwar, Natarajan, Umran Malik… the list is long. Tell us something about your reconnaissance process.

Scouting is important, but what we recognize, especially now with Indian cricket, is that almost everyone knows what talent is out there, even though there is a huge amount of talent. But it is very rare that you can discover a hidden gem. We were very lucky to be able to do this with Umran Malik, but these examples are rare. We managed to do that with Abdul Samadwho comes from the same country [Jammu and Kashmir]. We first gave Umran a chance through bowling online, and the rest is history. Actual findings of players of this caliber are rare. Often, young speed bowlers who have had any kind of recognition are quite on some path, whether it is their country or through an Indian high-performance center. Everyone has the same advantage. It’s a matter of identifying who you think might fit your strategy and setting.

It’s one thing to see the players, it’s another to support them, isn’t it?
A lot of people have commented over the years that we have tended to invest a lot of Indian fast bowlers. I don’t think we started with a conscious approach that we have a team full of Indian fast bowlers. What we did was we went out there with a conscious effort to make sure we had those specific roles riveted within our team. Not only do we have guys like Bhuvi as the pack leader with the new ball, but we have someone who can come in if Bhuvi gets injured in one or two games or whatever it may be. And our focus was on the Indian pace.

This is also because when Sunrisers Hyderabad took office from the Deccan Chargers in 2013, we didn’t inherit a lot of Indian international hitters. They [Chargers] had Rohit [Sharma]but was transferred to the Indians of Mumbai [in 2011], so we lost a world-class batter there. We managed to keep Shikhara Dhawan, but we basically had an inexperienced strike unit. So we had to build our blow around intentional players because there were very few Indians in the market to fulfill that role.

Speaking specifically about Umran Malik, surely you were thrilled to see the goalkeeper and players slipping standing in the 30-yard ring when the ball?
Look, it’s not just me. He delights the cricket world with his appetite for pace and natural spirit. There’s nothing better than seeing someone show up and throw 150 clicks, unless you’re on the other end.

Umran was great. We know that his path has just begun and that he will have his challenges, just like any other cricketer. Whether it continues to evolve and evolve as a fast bowler or other challenges, it has a strong unit around it in the Sunrisers. He has a great mentor Dale Steyn. He is a very focused and hard-working kid, so he has a lot of advantages for him with the Sunrisers and for Indian cricket.

Many Indian high speed bowlers in the past have switched from express to line and length due to injuries.
I don’t think there will ever be a bowler on line and length. He was born in Ferrari and will drive a Ferrari (he laughs). He, like any speed bowler, will have his challenges, with injuries or something, but the knowledge of managing speed bowlers and managing their aggression as they develop in the early years is much better now, so you need to make sure you get the right leadership , real mentoring and being surrounded by key people who do not complicate the process. Being part of the Sunrisers family, this is something that I, like Dale Steyn, will make sure we keep in touch with key people throughout the year – with him, at the state level as well as at the high performance level, to make sure let’s all be on the same side, watch out for the rare diamond.

Have you seen a significant difference between the bowler who left the IPL last year and the one who arrived for this season?
I’ve only seen improvements in the games he’s played this year. He received little negative feedback on how expensive it was. Its economy was pretty high in earlier games, but I think people need to understand that when you have speed in a short format, of course you’ll have a high price tag. You have to accept that there will be a high economy, but what you want is a positive wicket return. He is encouraged not so much to focus on the run he is going for, but on his attacking approach and the way he wants to pick the door. And we support him in that by giving him some tactical inputs and the meaning of the game around his approach, depending on where we play and with whom we play. He is forever evolving, perfecting and understanding the game, because he is still very young and has a lot to learn.

What kind of person is he?
He is quite relaxed, diligent. He is a character, has a bright personality and is a popular member of the team, so many people naturally gravitate towards him. Over the last 12 months his English has been getting better and better and our communication has become much more fluent. His English has become much better than my Hindi in the last 12 months. He is a very nice character. The only thing that impressed us even before he became an IPL player under contract is that, even when he was a bowler of the net, he wanted to learn, he asked a lot of questions. If he had to use Abdul Samad as a translator, he would not be ashamed to do so. He was always eager to learn about his action, running, what to do in the gym with regard to his strength program, rehabilitation, etc. He was very proactive in this regard, which is a great sign for a young cricketer – to naturally strive for it. approach, not that he must be encouraged to go that route.

Let’s talk about Marco Jansenanother fast bowler in your ranks.

He is unique. When you have 6’9 “and bowling with your left hand and you have the ability to swing the ball, there are a few things for you. One thing we really liked about Marc is that his style made a difference in the IPL. that someone of that height can generate, so it gives our attack a point of difference when you have someone who runs from that height who can achieve steep bounce and movement.The other thing is, we place a lot of hope in Marc given his ability to hit.We haven’t seen that yet in the IPL, but in the medium and long term, we see him as a real versatile player, someone who can fulfill a role for us in the first six or seven and have a big impact on the ball as well.

In the middle of the season, how satisfied were you with the recalibration of bowling, especially since you don’t have banking ability Rashid Khan?

Rashid is a unique bowler. Any team that provides his services will have great value with the 24 balls he delivers. But regardless of the circumstances surrounding the auction and retention, that story, unfortunately, we could not continue. But this year we have a different approach. We had to rethink our strategy.

With the retention of Umran we knew he would play a role for us in the middle games. We now address middle people a little differently, and Umran is the aggressor in that role. In general, there are hand rotations – [Yuzvendra] Chahal or Rashid, or whoever they are – the aggressors are different. We have a different approach. We had to work on our balance. An important role is played by Washington Sundar, who missed several games due to injury. He’s someone who can strike and play a key role in powerplay or beyond, depending on the games. We think balance works for us, but one of the most important parts of our success in the last few games is our impact as units in powerplay, and also the way we controlled and ruled out the last part of the changes.

Shashank Kishore is a senior contributor to ESPNcricinfo


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