Mohammad Akram, Pakistan’s newest bowling coach, has come up with a unique method to help his bowlers practice bowling the yorker. No, there were no plastic cones or markings that the bowlers were targeting or even a pair of shoes at the batting crease.
In this day and age of specialised short-blade bats for catching drills, reaction balls to improve reflexes and a tool called side-arm for giving precision throwdowns to batsmen, Akram used an innovative method to help his bowlers target the block hole. He brought out a car tyre that was cut in half.
The tyre, resting on the cut-off ends, was placed at the batting crease. The bowlers were asked to bowling through the arch. The bowling coach stood where a wicketkeeper would to fast bowlers and yelled out the kind of batsmen, imaginary of course, were taking strike.
Spinners Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi were the first to have a go at the tyre. Hitting the object was not considered a success; Akram only nodded in appreciation when the ball dipped and passed through the arch cleanly without disturbing the rubber.
The fast bowlers were next — Junaid Khan, Sohail Tanvir, Bilawal Bhatti and Umar Gul.
The seriousness of the drill could be ascertained from the fact that captain Mohammed Hafeez and former fast bowler Shoaib Akthar were guiding the pacemen from the bowler’s end.
Akram said that he has been using the cut tyre for the past two months.
“In one-day cricket the two new balls from either end means reverse swing is not a factor anymore. In T20 even if you have pace you need variations to be successful. The ball aimed at the block-hole has become an extremely important skill in the shorter formats of the game,” Akram said.
Pakistan struggled to contain Australian Glenn Maxwell, who scored 74 at a strike rate of 224, and looking listless when defending a low total against India. Akram was ensuring that his bowlers were tyre-ed and tested when it came to bowling the yorker before the side’s next game.