The scorecard of the India-Ireland match on Thursday will show that Ireland, chasing 269, lost their first two wickets to runouts. It was a wonderful display of fielding by captain Ishan Kishan and Arman Jaffer. However, what the scorecard won’t tell you is that it was some tight bowling by India’s new-ball bowlers that led the Irish batsmen to risk taking those non-existent runs. In particular, Avesh Khan, the under-19 team’s fastest and most experienced pacer, kept a suffocating line and length.
Khan shot into the limelight in the 2014 Under-19 World Cup in the UAE when he clocked 139.8 kmph against Pakistan. India’s never ending quest for an express pace bowler means that this aspect of his game — raw pace — gets hyped up the most. No doubt, there is pace — he touched 136 on Thursday — but there is nothing raw about it. This tall pacer from Indore is all polished. There are variations, game awareness and above all discipline. And when you add pace to that you get a specimen that is rare in India.
“Tez to main shuru se dal-ta tha,” says Khan. He looks pretty content, and it’s not because of his 10-1-24-2 figures the previous day. The reason is that after a closely monitored diet for 10 days, he got to relish his favourite food for the first time in Bangladesh. The management gave the team a break from practice and took them out for lunch at an Indian restaurant. The boys just went for it — chicken, daal, basically whatever they could lay their hands on.
“I was quick even when I was playing at under-16 level,” he carries on. “Khauf to tha circle mein ke ladka tez daalta hai (there was a reputation in the circle). I have inflicted injuries on a few batsmen as well.”
But he has grown up. He is one of three above-19 Indian players in the Under-19 tourney, having crossed the mark two months ago. He has also made his Ranji debut for Madhya Pradesh. Among the boys, he is a man. And he talks like one.
“Ek sau chalees to theek hai, but my focus is to hit both 140 and the right length. That’s is more difficult. 140 phenk ke boundary khaane mein kya fayda? Sometimes you have to slow the pace down. Because sometimes the ball comes very easily on to the bat. Then you need to use your mind. I vary my pace. I use cutters, off and leg,” he says. And like another, more famous Khan, he bowls the knuckle ball as well.
In the last match, he got a wicket with the knuckle ball. Rory Anders was looking to score some quick runs when Khan slipped one in. “The bastman couldn’t check his shot. He thought it was a regular pace ball, so he went for it. Then he realised that it’s a slower ball. By the time he tried to stop, ball already khadi ho gayi thi. So I work on all that stuff. Yorkers, slower ones and bouncers,” he says.
However, above all, he says, his strength is hard work and patience.
“Fast bowling is the toughest job in cricket, if you don’t work hard and try hard, you can’t bowl fast. You need to prepare, take proper diet, you have work out in the gym, build core strength. And you have to sleep as well. My coach, Amay Khurasiya, has taught me how to keep fine-tuning your bowling when you move up in cricket. He told me that higher levels what you need the most is patience. You don’t get wickets as easily as at Under-19 and Under-23 levels. When I played the Ranji Trophy I understood what he was saying,” he says.
Khan’s Ranji debut was in the 2014/15 season. He took 15 wickets in five matches. However, he couldn’t play the trophy this year as it was clashing with the preparations for the Junior World Cup. You suggest that a good performance here can open many other doors, including possibly the IPL. Does he think about it? Is he looking forward to the February 6 auction?
“I can’t say anything about that because that’s not in my hand. What’s in my hand is to perform here and make use of this opportunity that I have got. And, Allah ke karam se, pehle match mein achcha bowling dala. Let’s see what I can do tomorrow in the match against New Zealand. Since I have played a World Cup already and is the main bowler, I also need to set an example for other bowlers. Sabko utha ke rakhun field pe. Right now, that is my aim,” he says.
Eng close in on quarters
England beat a fighting West Indies to inch closer to booking a quarterfinal berth in the ICC U19 World Cup. This was England’s second successive win in Group C. Electing to bat, England made 282 for seven from 50 overs and then bundled out West Indies for 221 in 43.4 overs. In another match, Zimbabwe began their campaign with a cruising seven-wicket win over Fiji.
Brief scores: Group A: Scotland: 159 in 36.3 overs (Owais Shah 39, Haris Aslam 31; Michael van Lingen 3/19) lost to Namibia 162 for one in 26 overs (SJ Loftie-Eaton 67 not out, Niko Davin 52, Zane Green 39 not out) by one nine wickets. Group C: England: 282 for 7 in 50 overs (Dan Lawrence 55, Callum Taylor 59, George Bartlett 48) bt West Indies: 221in 43.4 overs (Gidron Pope 60, Keemo Paul 65; Saqib Mahmood 4/42) by 61 runs. Fiji: 81 in 27.4 overs (Wesley Madhevere 5/24, Blessing Mavuta 3/13) lost to Zimbabwe 84for 3 in 18.5 overs (Brendan Sly 29 not out) by seven wickets. PTI