With ten wickets in the five IPL matches he has played for the KXIP in the seventh edition so far, seamer Sandeep Sharma has impressed with a fine display of swing bowling. In an exclusive interaction with indianexpress.com, the 20-year-old talks about Chris Gayle’s wicket, how he plans to bowl against attacking batsmen and more. Excerpts:
Q: What is your take on your personal form in the seventh edition so far?
A: It has been good in the matches I have played so far. I am backing my strength – which is to swing the ball – and luckily I am getting the desired results. I am happy but want to carry on with the form and the way I am bowling at the moment.
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Q: Was it a conscious decision to pay more attention to swing since your physique won’t allow you to generate express pace?
A: I am not a born fast bowler. One has to find ways to be successful. I don’t agree that your physique has to be good to bowl fast. I am working on my pace. I was bowling around 125 kmph last year but now I am consistently hitting the 130 mark. My pace has increased and I will continue to work in this direction. My pace will definitely increase as I have age on my side. The bones and muscles will only get stronger. In my interactions with the coaches, I have learnt that no matter how good the batsman is, he will struggle against the swinging ball. Even my captain George Bailey said this. So if the ball is swinging nicely, the batsman will find it hard to hit.
Q: Are you worried that working too much on pace might affect your potent weapon – swing?
A: You must have seen Dale Steyn bowl with the new ball. When he operates with the new ball, he bowls around 135-137 and as it gets older he picks up speed. So it depends on bowlers, and they know to swing the ball one has to compromise a bit on pace. Even if I increase pace, I will continue to bowl at the same pace with the new ball. It is with the old ball that I will look to get extra yards because the ball doesn’t swing and one has to get the yorkers and bouncers right at that stage.
Q: Since your early days, you have always been a force with the new ball. Are you doing anything different with the old ball to have all bases covered?
A: I have been working a lot with the old ball and practising yorkers, slower balls and cutters. I haven’t got a chance to bowl with the old ball yet. So I have worked very hard on yorkers and different angles. Hopefully, I will be successful to execute the same when given a chance.
Q: How has been sharing the new ball with Mitchell Johnson?
A: Actually I don’t talk much about bowling with him since both of us have different styles. It is more about the mental aspect of the game that I discuss with him. For instance, how to prepare for a pressure situation, how to prepare for a match, how to carry yourself on the field – both during the match and during practice sessions.
Q: Apart from Johnson, there are a lot of big names like Sehwag, Bailey and Maxwell in the team. How’s it working with such an experienced unit?
A: Last year I got a lot of help from Praveen Kumar, who played all the IPLs and has represented India at the highest level. But this time I am getting a lot of help from Viru Paaji (Virender Sehwag). He has been playing cricket for more than a decade now and wherever we got to play, against different oppositions, I get a lot of help from him. He helps me read the wicket and informs how it has behaved in the past. He also helps me plan for a particular batsman, by discussing their strengths and weaknesses. He has played with and against almost all quality players.
Q: Did Sehwag’s inputs, if any, help when you castled Gayle?
A: Obviously we plan for every player before the match. As far as the Gayle wicket is concerned, I wanted to swing the ball from the legs towards the off-stump and luckily the ball which got him was the same ball we planned before the match.
Q: How do you plan while bowling to an attacking batsman. What is the difference in bowling to Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard?
A: The only difference I see is that you bowl with the new ball to Gayle and with the old ball to Pollard. Both of them are there to hit the ball. Gayle has problem facing the swinging ball but at the time when Pollard comes in to bat, the ball doesn’t swing and variations play a role. Focus shifts to slower ball, slower yorkers and slower bouncers. This is the difference I see. When Gayle bats the ball is new and only two players are outside, though it doesn’t matter to Gayle how many fielders are out as he can still clear them, and Pollard comes when the ball stops swinging and the fielding restrictions are off.
Q: Now that the edition is heading towards its business end, are you targeting the Purple Cap?
A: To be honest, I haven’t thought about winning the Purple Cap. I am only thinking to bowl better match by match and give my hundred percent in every contest. If I continue to do the same, and results follow, I will get the Purple Cap.
Q: You are the bowler with the highest percentage (58.82%) of dot balls (50 out of 85 balls) so far. What does your captain expects you to do – take wickets or contain the flow of runs?
A: The only thing (George) Bailey tells me to do is to bowl according to the field. And, I stick to doing the same in the middle. As far as the dot balls are concerned, the number is high because I am among the wickets. So when a new batsman comes in, he takes time to settle. The number is encouraging because the new ball travels fast and with only two fielders out, scores in excess of 50 are common in the first six overs. So it is only because of the early wickets that I to bowl more dot balls. If I continue to pick more, the number will only improve.
Q: Where do you want to see yourself at the end of the IPL?
A: I have seen the IPL for five years on television and now when I am playing, I want to fulfil my dream of performing well in this tournament. So I am living my dream and enjoying the performances at the moment. And, If I will continue to perform, I will get noticed.